France Fines US Cruise Ship Captain Over $100,000

A Marseille court has fined a U.S. cruise ship captain for breaking a European air pollution law, making it the first ruling of its kind in France.

The Azura was spot checked in March by French authorities and discovered to be burning bunker fuel containing 1.68% sulfur which is 0.18% above the 1.5% European limit.

Fuel with high levels of sulfur may be cheaper but it contributes to acid rain and the acidification of oceans, just one form of pollution that Marseille has been fighting. Some cruise ships have made steps to reduce their use of high-sulfur fuel like Hurtigruten, who is planning to use dead fish to power their cruise ships.

Evans Hoyt was the U.S. captain of the Azura which is operated by P&O Cruises, a subsidiary of Carnival Cruises. He was fined €100,000 ($113,355.00 USD) by a Marseille court.

During the trial, the prosecutor claimed that Hoyt knew that the fuel he had obtained in Barcelona was illegal, while Carnival lawyers argued that the pollution laws didn’t apply to the Azura but are only applicable to passenger ships using a regular route.

The judge who fined Hoyt €100,000 specified that Carnival should pay €80,000 of the fine, leaving Hoyt with €20,000 or $22,656.86 USD. Hoyt was not present in court.

Prosecutor Franck Lagier said during the case that P&O “wanted to save money at the expense of everyone’s lungs,” reported The Guardian.

A spokesman for Carnival said: “The Carnival group carries over 12 million guests on its vessels each year and takes its legal and moral obligations towards the protection of the environment very seriously indeed. We were therefore 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. 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.”

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