US cruise ship captain fined in France over fuel sulphur content

A court in Marseille has fined cruise ship master Captain Evans Hoyt $110,000 for using fuel with a sulphur content 0.18 percentage points above the limit. It was the first ruling of its kind in France and it was contrary to the French government’s previous stance on sulphur content rules for cruise ships.

P&O cruise ship Azura called at Marseille on March 28, 2018 while under the command of Captain Hoyt, the. Inspectors boarded, sampled her tanks and determined that she was using fuel with a sulphur content of 1.68%. This amount is slightly higher than the EU’s 1.5 percent limit for “passenger ships providing regular services to destinations or from ports of the European Union.”

The definition does not cover all passenger vessels and it is interpreted differently in different EU nations. The governments of France and Spain have previously determined that it does not apply to cruise ships. In the case of the Azura, however, French prosecutors contended that the EU’s passenger ship sulphur cap applies to vessels fitting her description. They further alleged that operator P&O had used slightly higher-sulphur fuel illegally in order to save money.

The judge ruled that P&O parent company Carnival Corporation should pay $90,000 of Capt. Hoyt’s $110,000 fine.

Carnival has appealed the decision. It noted that France’s government had given clear indication that it would not apply the EU’s passenger ship sulphur cap to cruise ships.

“We were . . . very disappointed to be prosecuted for this offense, which was based on a European law the French environment ministry had explicitly informed the cruise industry would not be applied to cruise ships and which, in any event, has still not been properly implemented,” Carnival said, adding that “the captain was using the fuel in good faith, as directed by us, based on our understanding of the law. We have lodged an appeal and will consider the full decision of the court once it is available.”