International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Member States have supported a proposal to identify measures aimed at mitigating the risks posed by the use of heavy fuel oil (HFO) in Arctic waters, and called on the IMO to work towards a swift conclusion of the work.
The support was voiced during the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 71) that was concluded today.
Measures to Reduce Risks of Use and Carriage of Heavy Fuel Oil as Fuel by Ships in Arctic Waters were proposed by Canada, Finland, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway and the US, and supported this week by the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Poland, Singapore, Spain and Sweden. Concrete proposals for measures to reduce the risks of HFO will now be considered by MEPC 72 in April 2018.
“The Clean Arctic Alliance welcomes the recognition by IMO Member States of the risks posed by an HFO spill to local indigenous communities and to the environment, and the broad support from members towards providing the protection required in vulnerable Arctic waters, ” Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance, a coalition of international non-governmental organisations working for an Arctic phase-out of HFO, said.
“With the Arctic warming at an unprecedented rate, it is imperative that the IMO starts work on developing new measures, including a ban on HFO use in the region, without delay.”
“A ban on the use of HFO and carriage of HFO as fuel is the simplest and easiest measure to enforce which will provide the best protection for the Arctic. While this might seem ambitious, a ban can be adopted in 2020, and come into effect 18 months after adoption,” added Prior.
Around 75% of marine fuel currently carried in the Arctic is HFO; over half by vessels flagged to non-Arctic states – countries that have little if any connection to the Arctic, the coalition said.
“Earlier this year, the Arctic sea ice hit a new record – the lowest amount of winter ice since records began, 38 years ago. As this opens up potential for more ship traffic to use the shorter Arctic sea routes to transport cargoes between south-east Asia and Europe, it is vital that the IMO immediately begins working on measures for HFO risk mitigation in the Arctic,” concluded Prior.
Already banned in Antarctic waters, if HFO is spilled in the colder waters of the Arctic, it breaks down slowly, with long-term devastating effects on both livelihoods and ecosystems. HFO is also a higher source of harmful emissions of air pollutants, such as sulphur oxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter, including black carbon, than alternative fuels such as distillate fuel and liquid natural gas (LNG). When emitted and deposited on Arctic snow or ice, the climate warming effect of black carbon is up to five times more than when emitted at lower latitudes, such as in the tropics.