We represent major passenger cruise line companies on domestic and international environmental issues, both on-ship and ashore, that range from the applicability of international and U.S. federal and port state laws to the operation of ships and the wastes they generate. We guide clients through responding to government enforcement actions and citizen suit threats and developing comprehensive environmental compliance plans. Our work also includes surveying and assisting in the response to government and citizen group efforts to increase regulatory controls over the cruise line industry.
Cruise Industry Representative Matters
Our experience with marine discharge matters and the cruise industry, generally, include:
- Negotiated an Environmental Compliance Plan (ECP) with the U.S. Department of Justice on behalf of a cruise line, as part of a criminal plea agreement arising from alleged violations of the Clean Water Act (CWA) from oil bilge water discharges. The ECP governed the company’s compliance with all applicable federal environmental regulatory programs and required, among other things, an annual audit of the cruise line’s ships for five years. We worked with auditors to assist the ships with various aspects of environmental compliance, and following the audit, we reviewed and commented on draft audit reports and final versions submitted to the DOJ. Our lawyers also conducted inspections of several ships with the auditors to ensure the ships were operating in compliance with the ECP.
- Assisted a cruise line in developing ship-wide operating standards and an audit work plan, evaluating the company’s compliance with various environmental requirements applicable to the full range of operations of its vessels. Among other things, obligations included those pertinent to black water and gray water discharges, as well as those imposed by MARPOL and implementing statutes (such as the Act for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships) and the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA).
- Assisted cruise lines in numerous federal criminal investigations arising from the federal government’s Vessel Pollution Initiative, involving alleged violations of the CWA and related statutes, as well as allegations of conspiracy and obstruction. More specifically, this experience included:
- conducting internal investigations surrounding allegations of oil bilge water discharges and potential false log entries, which involved extensive document reviews and crew member interviews;
- responding to subpoenas and negotiating with trial attorneys from the DOJ Environmental Crimes Section; and
- reviewing existing compliance policies and procedures and improving compliance programs and training.
- Addressed regulatory requirements applicable to discharges of gray/black bilge water under various regulatory regimes, including working on behalf of the marine industry on EPA’s Vessel General Permit for Discharges Incidental to the Normal Operation of Vessels (Vessel General Permit, or VGP).
- Counseled a cruise line operating under an existing ECP in negotiations with EPA and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation regarding several potential violations of the CWA related to opacity readings from the company’s ships.
- Advised a marine spill response company on issues associated with RCRA regulation of oily water collected by cleanup vessels and requirements applicable to subsequent discharges of that water.