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I did some posts in the summer about a criminal prosecution that the captain of Azura faced. The essence of the issue was that on 29 March Azura was found to contain fuel with a level of sulphur content (1.68%) that was higher than permitted level of sulphur content (1.5%). A further hearing has been held in this trial but as yet there is no verdict or decision. That will come on the 28th of November.

Initially just the captain was charged, but at the July hearing the case was extended to include Carnival Corporation. At the conclusion of that hearing the case was deferred until October. Unfortunately I missed the (limited) coverage of this later hearing, so this is a bit of a catch-up post.

A few things emerged during the October hearing. First, the captain was named – Captain Evans Hoyt. Previously his identity had not been formally given before the court (or at least, not publicly), but based on P&O publications it was easy to identify him as Azura’s captain on the relevant date, of course. A further point to have emerged is that no-one is contending with the facts of the case – the tests done show that Azura was indeed using fuel with a sulphur concentration of 1.68% as against a limit of 1.5%.

What is interesting is the nature of Carnival’s (and the Captain’s) defence. The arguments seem to be two-fold:-

  • first, that the limit of 1.5% for cruise ships unfairly distinguishes between cruise ships and those for cargo ships (which have a higher limit), and this means there is a lack of “equality before the law”;
  • secondly and additionally, because Azura is not a regular visitor to European ports a higher limit of 3.5% applies. The observed limit of 1.68% was well within that.

I can’t comment on the first point – I imagine that this must turn on fine points of French and possibly European law. As regards the second point, i can only conclude that there is some special meaning of “regular”, e.g. perhaps a repeated ferry schedule or something like that, as Azura does frequently visit European ports!

My earlier post of 10th July included Carnival Corporation’s response to the case. This particular part is especially interesting: “…. we believe we and our Captain were acting in accordance with applicable French law based on guidance the cruise industry received from the French Environment Ministry.” That statement fits with the defence argument, of course. It would be interesting to learn the details of the “guidance the cruise industry received from the French Environment Ministry”.

As I mentioned above, the court is scheduled to hand down its decision on 28th November.

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