The captain of the Azura, a P&O cruise ship, has been fined €100,000 by a Marseille court after the ship was found to be using excessively dirty shipping fuel.
In the first ruling of its kind in France, intended to signal increased judicial seriousness in prosecuting dirty shipping fuel offenders, the judge imposed a €100,000 fine on American captain Evans Hoyt, with the proviso that €80,000 must be paid by P&O’s parent company, Carnival. The Azura had been subjected to a spot check in March of this year, which found it was burning unauthorised bunker fuel.
Under the EU Sulphur Directive passenger ships which operate regular services to or from any EU port may use fuel with a maximum sulphur content of 1.5 per cent. The Azura was found to be using dirty shipping fuel which contained 1.68 per cent sulphur; both Hoyt and P&O were aware of the transgression, but were using the illicit, cheaper fuel to save money, the prosecution alleged. Prosecutor Franck Langier told the court that the company “wanted to save money at the expense of everyone’s lungs”.
Shipping fuels high in sulphur are cheaper than cleaner fuels, but are correspondingly more detrimental to the environment: sulphur oxides produced by burning the dirtier fuels contribute to acid rain and the acidification of oceans, as well as air pollution. Use of sulphurous fuel in the shipping industry has been held responsible for the increase of smog in Marseille; and a recent report found that up to 400,000 premature deaths and 14 million cases of childhood asthma per year could be traced back to dirty shipping fuel emissions.
The European Commission found earlier this year that since the implementation of stricter rules on dirty shipping fuel in the EU Sulphur Directive, sulphur dioxide emissions around control areas had dropped by more than half, with an overall fuel compliance rate of 93 per cent.