French court sued the Captain of the 'Azura', Captain Evans Hoyt, 58, over using heavy fuel oil (HFO) containing 1.68% of sulphur, which exceeds the maximum allowed limit of 1.5%, during the ship’s stopover in Marseilles, on 29 March.
When the cruise ship arrived at the port in March, authorities took fuel samples. However, when the results revealed a high level of sulphur, Azura had already departed and respective authorities boarded vessel at La Seyne-sur-Mer in the Var, where the Captain admitted to have used a non-compliant fuel. The trial started on 9 July.
According to prosecutors in the trial, the Captain was aware that that the fuel was illegal and 'the company was using it to save money'.
International sources underline that the court's decision seeks to signal a new seriousness in tackling pollution from cruise ships, as cruise ship traffic sees rising development in Mediterranean ports and specifically the port of Marseilles is a highly popular destination for cruise ships which add significantly to the local economy. However, this has greatly contributed to the increased levels of smog in the city over the last years.
However, according to data provided by the Telegraph earlier in 2018, the Captain's lawyer in court, Bertrand Coste, contended that European environment rules unfairly distinguished between limits for cruise ships and those for cargo vessels, which is higher, saying this meant there was a lack of "equality before the law".