IMO Urged to Ban Heavy Fuel Oil in Arctic Waters

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have called on the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to ban the highly polluting marine fuel heavy fuel oil (HFO) from use in Arctic waters.

Transport & Environment informed that the full European Parliament wants the IMO’s environment committee to discuss outlawing the use of HFO in the Arctic when it meets in July.

HFO is in widespread use in global shipping because it is a cheap waste product of the oil refining process, which makes it the dirtiest fuel on the market. Compared with other marine fuels, HFO produces higher levels of air and climate pollutants, many of which have serious effects on human health, and in the event of a spill the damage is virtually impossible to clean up.

In a debate on oil in the Arctic on March 16, MEPs passed a resolution that calls for a ban on HFO use by ships in Arctic waters. It also said the European Commission and EU member states should consider prohibiting the use and carriage of HFO for ships using EU ports if international efforts to ban this fuel fail.

“We welcome the parliament’s clear call for a ban on the use of heavy fuel oil by ships in the Arctic. This vote should be a clear signal for EU member states to put HFO on the agenda for the next meeting of IMO’s environment committee in July. This is an important opportunity to start formal discussions on the risks related to using HFO in the Arctic,” Faig Abbasov, T&E’s shipping policy officer, said.

Environmental campaigners have been calling for shipping fuels to be cleaned up for two decades, but the melting of ice in the polar regions has made pollution from ships a particular problem as it threatens the delicate Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems.

HFO has already been banned from Antarctic waters, but it is still allowed in Arctic regions, where shipping activity is expanding as previously frozen routes become accessible for more months of the year.

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