US cruise ship captain on trial in Marseille for exceeding sulphur cap

An American cruise ship captain has gone on trial in Marseille  for burning bunkers slightly above an EU limit of 1.5% sulphur content.

On the morning of March 28th, while under the command of Captain Evans Hoyt, the Azura called at Marseille, France. Inspectors boarded, sampled her tanks and determined that she was using fuel with a sulphur content of 1.68% compared with an authorized limit of 1.5%. Records showed that the Azura had bunkered with 1.75% fuel at the port of Barcelona before calling at Marseille.

In court, prosecutor Franck Laugier called for the Azura to be fined €100,000 with 80% to be paid by Carnival Corporation and the rest by Captain Hoyt.

The defence has argued that the EU’s 1.5% limit applied only to “passenger ships providing regular services to destinations or from ports of the EU.” The Azura was not a ferry with “regular services” and therefore she should be exempt, the defence claimed.

The EU regulation does not make an explicit exemption for cruise ships and different EU member nations have taken different approaches to its application.

Captain Hoyts’ defence team also said that the 1.5% regulation was unfair as cargo vessels in the Mediterranean were subject neither to the 1.5 percent cap, nor the EU ECA Zone limit of 0.1% sulphur.