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Cruise ships, high sulphur in bunkers & EU Directive (2012/33)

Master of cruise ship 'Azura' being fined €100,000 by a French court last week for violating EU air pollution laws - breaching bunker oil sulphur limit of 1.5%, was touted as a landmark judgement and appeared in just about every news service. There was however no mention about the rather UNCLEAR EU Directive (2012/33) which the ship was alleged to have breached.

This directive expressly does not apply to cruise ships on “regular service”. Understanding of what constitutes ‘regular service’ differs across EU member states. ECJ provided some guidance in 2014 in Case C-537/11, where Italian auth. held a cruise ship for a similar violation. Without answering the question directly, ECJ said that ‘regular service’ means - “a series of...ship crossings operated so as to serve traffic between the same two or more ports, or a series of voyages from and to the same port without intermediate calls, either: (i)...published timetable, or (ii)...crossings so regular...”. Some member states subsequently suspended the applicability of this directive to cruise ships.

As per reports the company could appeal Marseille court’s ruling as it feels that the EU Directive does not apply in this case.

Ironically, in the case of Azura, bunkers were taken onboard in another EU state!

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