Trial Begins for P&O Azura Captain Over Air Pollution

Jul 09, 2018

Today July 9, at the Criminal Court of Marseille started the trial of the P&O Cruises captain on charges for air pollution. This is the first case of its kind in Europe, claiming that the cruise ship P&O Azura exceeded the legal limit on sulfur emissions while in the port of Marseille, France. If found guilty the master of the vessel faces up to a year in prison and a €200,000 fine. According to the French press the captain of P&O Azura, age 58, was not present at the hearing today, and the court will also take legal actions against Carnival Corporation, the parent company of P & O Cruises. The court says that they are required to appear on the trial for "use of sulfur content above the authorized standards in the territorial waters of France ".

The violation of the European Air Pollution Standards by Azura were recorded in March this year while the cruise ship was docked in Marseille. French agents of the Ships Safety Center conducted fuel control tests of the vessel. After they tested the fuel quality recorded sulfur content in the fuel was 1.68%, which was above the legal limit of 1.50%.

Because these tests need more time Azura has already left the port. However, once authorities had finished the test they intercepted the cruise ship in the port of Toulon. According to the statement by the public prosecutor of Marseilles, the master of Azura "acknowledged having used a fuel not respecting the maximum regulatory concentration in sulfur". 

The first key issue on this trial will be to prove if the maximum sulphur level was deliberately exceeded. For FNE Paca, who has brought a civil action, the offense was knowingly committed by Carnival. "The cruise ship owners have a perfect knowledge of the legislation, in which case they did it purely for economic reasons," says Maroussia Berrezaie, a member of FNE Paca." The fuel with higher content of Sulphur is cheaper."

With this trial, the French authorities are sending a strong message, to the cruise industry that they will not tolerate cruise ships who will break the law. This trial concerns a real problem of public health by air pollution caused by cruise ships and cargo ships. The sulfur contained in fuels is indeed known for its impact on the health. In the following years, the European Union will implement even more strict laws on air pollution. By 2020 The European regulations for sulfur content in the fuel will be lowered to 0.5% for all vessels.

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