Marseille prosecutors have put a cruise ship Master on trial for using fuel just above an EU limit of 1.5% sulfur content.
According to local reports, on the morning of 28th March, 2018, while under the command of Capt Evans Hoyt, P&O’s ‘Azura’ called at Marseille, France.
Inspectors sampled her tanks and determined that she was burning fuel with a sulfur content of 1.68%, slightly higher than the mandatory limit of 1.5%. Her records showed that she had bunkered 1.75% sulfur fuel at Barcelona before calling Marseille.
Based on this evidence, Marseille prosecutor Xavier Tarabeux alleged that Carnival Corp’s P&O brand had engaged in “use by a ship in [EU] territorial seas of fuel whose sulfur content is higher than the allowed standards for air pollution.”
In court, prosecutor Franck Laugier called for the ‘Azura’ to be fined €100,000, with 80% to be paid by Carnival Corp and 20% by Capt Hoyt.
According to a report in ‘Le Monde’, the defence argued that the EU’s 1.5% sulfur limit applies only to “passenger ships providing regular services to destinations or from ports of the European Union.”
As the ‘Azura’ is a cruise liner, not a ferry with “regular services,” the defence said that she should be exempt.
In court this week, Capt Hoyts’ defence team also said that the regulation limiting fuel sulfur content on passenger ships is unfair, as cargo vessels are not subject to the 1.5% cap.
Since this case was highlighted, a new survey by the maritime professionals’ union Nautilus International found that criminalisation was a major worry for those working in the industry, with nearly 90% concerned about the risk of prosecution.
The survey of over 500 seafarers, announced at the organisation’s UK branch symposium in Liverpool, found nearly three quarters of respondents (70%) suggested the threat has a direct impact on their desire to remain at sea and identified a resulting impact on recruitment and retention within the industry.
These findings follows the launch of Nautilus International’s fair treatment campaign, which provides practical support for seafarers.
One in 10 of those surveyed (15%) reported they have been directly involved in legal action, opening them up to persecution and requiring union support. Of these, a third of cases (30%) involved civil action and a fifth involved maritime administrative action or criminal action (20%).
Nautilus’ head of strategy, Debbie Cavaldoro, commented: “The criminalisation of seafarers not only has a damaging impact on individuals who can suffer as scapegoats, but also on the economy, as skilled workers will be put off from entering the industry that we rely so much upon.
“Sadly, the example in France this week highlights the injustice seafarers face following incidents at sea. As a result, our fair treatment campaign aims to present these issues to the industry and government alike, whilst providing practical support to ensure members’ rights are protected at sea as they would be on land.”