Since Marseille is not in a ECA (yet) one would think the worldwide limit of 3.5% would apply. Except for the fact a separate EU sulfur directive exists which somewhat confusingly requires 1.5% limit as per:
‧4. Member States shall take all necessary measures to ensure that marine fuels are not used in their territorial seas, exclusive economic zones and pollution control zones falling outside SOx Emission Control Areas by passenger ships operating on regular services to or from any Union port if the sulphur content of those fuels exceeds 1,50 % by mass until 1 January 2020.
That same directive states:
Maximum sulphur content of marine fuels used by ships at berth in Union ports
Member States shall take all necessary measures to ensure that ships at berth in Union ports do not use marine fuels with a sulphur content exceeding 0,10 % by mass, allowing sufficient time for the crew to complete any necessary fuel-changeover operation as soon as possible after arrival at berth and as late as possible before departure.
Member States shall require the time of any fuel-changeover operation to be recorded in ships’ logbooks.
- Paragraph 1 shall not apply:
(a) whenever, according to published timetables, ships are due to be at berth for less than two hours;
(b) to ships which switch off all engines and use shore-side electricity while at berth in ports.
- Member States shall ensure that marine gas oils are not placed on the market in their territory if the sulphur content of those marine gas oils exceeds 0,10 % by mass.
One can envision that the EU was trying to tweak down the 3.5 limit for areas not in the ECA but where ships are on a regular run and therefore putting more SOx compounds in the air.
Unfortunately a French prosecutor seems to be accentuating the “passenger ship” wording rather than the “regular service” words.
Of course if this ship was calling there every week it could come down to what “regular” means. But an American in a French court?
Since they did not specify any thing about the 0.1% in port limit one would assume they changed over to a source and DG’s burning that dockside.
Previous history of this ship in this port? When was the last time in Marseille? What was sulfur content then? Any enforcement action or warnings then?
Are we talking a residual fuel here or gas oil?
What did the shipowner order? Since a bunker supplier can write one thing on the proposed bunker spec prior to placing the stem and something else on the BDN and the shipowners own after the fact testing can provide yet another number for sulfur content - the first thing to check is what is on the BDN. Had enough time passed to have the owners sample reach the lab, be tested and have results onboard?
If they ordered proper fuel but supplier delivered something above the limit the owner is supposed to report that fact up through flag state which should mitigate any enforcement actions against the ship and put the focus on the supplier especially since that was also in the EU.
Since the defense is already talking about the applicability of the 3.5 limit Stating they felt the 1.5 did not apply I wonder what their purchase spec said for sulfur.