Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines has been accused of falsifying logs to hide dumping of polluted water
Cruising into rough waters
Royal Caribbean indicted on allegations of lying in federal investigation
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- A grand jury in Miami has indicted Royal Caribbean International, the world's second largest cruise ship operator, on allegations of lying to the U.S. Coast Guard during a pollution investigation, Justice
Department officials said.
The indictment came Thursday in connection with a five-year-old investigation, said U.S. Assistant Attorney General Lois Schiffer.
"Lying to federal agencies charged with helping to protect the environment
is a serious crime and will be prosecuted," said Schiffer.
The investigation -- by the Coast Guard, the FBI and the Environmental Protection Agency -- began in 1993 when infrared radar on a Coast Guard plane filmed Royal Caribbean's Nordic Empress discharging pollutants during a return voyage to its home port of Miami.
The indictment charges that the Coast Guard was presented with false logs during the subsequent investigation. The logs claimed that waste went through a pollution prevention device called an oil-water separator before being dumped, but the Justice Department alleges that the ship was fitted with equipment allowing it to bypass the separator.
The oil-water separator is required by law on ships the size of the 48,563-ton, 623-foot Nordic Empress.
Officials at the cruise line say the company is reviewing the indictment.
This is the second time Royal Caribbean has faced such charges. In June, the company will go on trial in San Juan, Puerto Rico. In all, Royal Caribbean faces 10 counts in that indictment, including pollution dumping by five of its nine cruise ships, and could face fines up to $500,000 per count.
Officials from the company say they have taken steps to comply with environmental regulations, including updating pollution control technology and staffing each ship with an environmental officer.
Royal Caribbean is expected to enter a plea to the latest charge on Tuesday in Miami federal court.
CNN TravelGuide Correspondent Stephanie Oswald contributed to this report.
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