Korean vessel charged in France with scrubber violation

The captain and the operator of bulk carrier SM Roberts Bank (IMO 9842504) are in trouble with the French authorities after the vessel was alleged to have used its scrubber smoke filter within 3nm of the French coast.

The use of open-loop scrubbers within three miles of French shores has been banned since January 2022, and the prohibition applies to all vessels, foreign and domestic.

When the SM Roberts Bank arrived at the Arcelor Quay in the port of Fos-sur-Mer on September 21st in order to unload ore, it was checked by the French ship safety centre (CSN). An analysis of the onboard documents found that the vessel’s scrubber smoke filter had been used within the three-nautical-mile zone.

The operation of the scrubber involved the discharge of polluted water. Based on an investigation undertaken by the maritime gendarmerie and the CSN, the prosecutor’s office of the specialized coastal jurisdiction asserted that, in addition to the use of the scrubber in an unauthorized are, the fuel used several hours after its arrival at the dock had a sulphur content higher than the 0.1% maximum allowed.

The Marseille prosecutor’s office released the vessel from “judicial immobilization” on September 27th following the receipt from the South Korean operator of a deposit of €80,000 Euros. Once this sum was paid by the South Korean operator Korean Shipping Corp it was able to set sail again for Dunkirk, where it berthed on October 6th.

The ship’s captain’s legal case is scheduled to be heard in July 2024. Korean Shipping Co and the captain are claiming that they “scrupulously” followed the requirements of software. This was supposed to anticipate the use of fuel with limited sulphur content authorized in the three-mile band and at the dock.

Penalties for breaching the scrubbing rules within the French 3nm zone are severe, including a potential fine for the operating company of €1m, and prison time for the captain.

2019-built, Marshall Islands-flagged, 43,989 gt SM Roberts Bank is owned by Korea Tonnage No 57 Shipping care of Korea Shipping Corp of Seoul, South Korea. ISM manager is KLC SM Co Ltd of Busan, South Korea. It is entered with Steamship Mutual (Eastern Syndicate) on behalf of Korea Tonnage No 57 Shipping Co. As of October 9th the vessel was en route from Dunkirk, France, to Norfolk, Virginia, USA.