The charge, 67-year-old Jerry Nehl Boylan, is “responsible for the safety and security of the ship, its crew and its passengers,” the U.S. prosecutor’s office said.
According to the indictment, Boylan caused the deaths of 34 people “by his misconduct, negligence and carelessness due to his duties”.
CNN contacted Boylan’s lawyers but received no feedback.
The flames could have been caused by overnight mobile phones and batteries – a tragedy could have been prevented by a night watchman, National Road Safety Board investigators said in October.
Three security breaches were alleged in the indictment, including failure to guard the night or patrol, failure to conduct proper fire drills, and proper training of the crew.
“A pleasant vacation dive trip became a hell of a nightmare when one of the passengers and crew was trapped in a fiery bunk room without escape,” U.S. lawyer Nick Hanna said in a statement. “The loss of life that day will forever affect the families of the 34 victims.”
All charges of murdering a sailor will result in a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison, prosecutors said in a statement. Boylan is expected to surrender to federal authorities in the coming weeks.