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Greek carrier fined for sulfur in Denmark

A Greek dry bulk carrier has been fined for breaching sulfur regulations in the Danish Port of Aarhus. The carrier disagreed with the measurement, but chose to pay the fine.

Photo: Hellenic Star Shipping

A Greek carrier has been fined for sailing on fuel with excessive sulfur content in the Danish Port of Aarhus.

The violation happened back in October 2016. Authorities took samples of bunker oil aboard the ship Sea Melody 1, which later turned out to have a sulfur content above the limit of 0.1 percent.

According to the test, the fuel had a sulfur content of 0.122 percent. The shipowner, Hellenic Star Company, has thus been fined DKK 30,000 (USD 3,500). The fine was issued in late May 2018 and belongs in the mild category of sulfur violations.

Danish police informs that the fine has been paid.

ShippingWatch has tried contacting Hellenic Star Shipping, which has not returned the inquiry before the editorial deadline.

Correspondence to which ShippingWatch has received access shows that the carrier disputed the authorities' measurements throughout the two-year case period.

Puzzled about measurement

In an email to Danish police, a representative from Hellenic Start Shipping explained that Sea Melody 1 changed to low-sulfur fuel more than one week before the ship arrived in the Port of Aarhus in October 2016.

Taking that into consideration it is difficult to understand why the analyzed sample can show a marginal transgression of the sulfur limit

Hellenic Star Shipping in a note to Danish police

"Taking that into consideration, it is difficult to understand why the analyzed sample can show a marginal transgression of the sulfur limit," wrote the company in an email sent Jan. 31, 2017.

"One explanation may be that some high sulfur oil was stuck in the F.O. auto backwash filter, from where the sample was taken," writes Hellenic offering to forward its own bunker samples.

Following further investigation with assistance from the Danish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), police, however, found that the carrier had violated the requirements and was therefore liable to pay the fine.

45 ships swallowed the bait

The Danish sulfur requirements for marine fuel took force on Jan. 1, 2015. Since then, 31 carriers have been reported to the police for violating regulations. Last year, the EPA caught 45 vessels sailing on fuel with a "considerable" sulfur content."

In 2020, regulations will also apply to international waters, unless ships are fitted with a scrubber that can filter sulfur from exhaust.

The size of fines issued by authorities to sulfur regulation violators vary from country to country. Just how large a fine should be in order to effectively enforce compliance has been a big, ongoing question.

In Danish, European and Global jurisdiction, the IMO is concerned that it might make fiscal sense for carriers to violate sulfur regulations, if an effective and assured manner of inspecting marine fuel for sulfur content compliance is not developed. Otherwise, the potential savings of risking non-compliant sailings could be too great.

The Danish EPA indicates in a note how large a fine should be. If the sulfur content of marine fuel exceeds 1 percent, the carrier should be seriously impacted by the fine, which should be DKK 300,000 or more. The lowest fine is at DKK 30,000 and is issued when sulfur content in bunker is between 0.12 and 0.14 percent.

English Edit: Ida Jacobsen & Daniel Frank Christensen

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