Monday, November 26, 2018

Landmark Case Sees Captain Fined for Excessive Sulphur in Marine Fuel

French Authorities Crack Down as Pollution Levels Rise
Shipping News Feature
FRANCE – In what we believe to be the first such case in the country, French authorities have levied a €100,000 fine on a company for abusing the sulphur in fuel regulations. Whilst European legislation currently allows 1.5% sulphur content, as against the 0.5% limit applicable from 2020 under the International Maritime Organization's (IMO) MARPOL regulations, the Azura, a vessel operated by P&O Cruises was found to be bunkering fuel containing 1.68% sulphur.

The ship was subject to a spot check in Marseille in March and it was a Court there which pronounced sentence. Although Captain Evans Hoyt was aware he was carrying illegal fuel, and the prosecution was directly against him, the Court decreed that €80,000 of the penalty be paid by P&O’s US owners, Carnival.

There have been protests of late in Marseille about the amount of pollution caused by the many ships calling at the Mediterranean port, principally aimed at the dozens of cruise ships which call regularly there. Dirty marine fuels have been cited as a contributory factor in up to 400,000 premature deaths globally every year and are a principal trigger for millions of children developing asthma.

In Marseille some sources put the amount of particulates in the city’s air caused by the cruise ships as high as 20% of the total, with pollution readings 100 times higher in the vicinity of the port than elsewhere in the province.

Captain Hoyt has skippered the Azura since joining the company in 2016 after a decade with Norwegian Cruise Lines. The ship refuelled in Barcelona with fuel containing 1.75% sulphur and the defence had argued that the regulations did not apply to the vessel as they were drafted for ‘passenger ships providing regular services to destinations or from ports of the European Union’ i.e. ferry services.

This defence was overruled by the Court which agreed to the terms of sentencing put forward by prosecutor Franck Lagier in October when the case was decided. The captain could have faced up to a year in prison as a result of the guilty verdict.