The government of Iceland has announced a regulation which will effectively ban the use of heavy fuel oil in the country’s shipping sector.
The new regulation, which is intended to improve Iceland’s air quality and reduce levels of harmful emissions, commits ships operating within 12 nautical miles of the coast of Iceland to use fuel with a sulphur content of no more than 0.1% by January 2020. This is a significant drop compared to both the current limit of 3.5% and the 0.5% limit established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which will also come into effect in January; and brings Icelandic territorial seas in line with the standards set for Emission Control Areas by the IMO’s International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). The permissible sulphur content limit will be set at 0.5% further out to sea and outside territorial waters.
The Iceland Nature and Conservation Association and the Clean Arctic Alliance, a non-profit consortium which aims to protect the Arctic regions from the deleterious effects of heavy fuel oil use, welcomed the new regulation as a step in the right direction. However, campaigners cautioned that the regulation contains a loophole whereby ships around Iceland will still be permitted to run on heavy fuel oil as long as they employ controversial open loop scrubber technology, which reduces the airborne sulphur emissions produced by ships, but increases the amount of harmful waste released into the ocean.
Árni Finnsson of the Iceland Nature Conservation Association said: “Iceland’s new regulation to limit exhaust emissions with high levels of sulphur from shipping in Iceland’s waters is a positive step forward by Environment Minister Guðmundur Ingi Guðbrandsson, but fails to address emissions of black carbon, which accelerates Arctic sea ice melt, and in turn accelerate the effects of human-induced climate change. The only viable step forward is for Iceland to completely ban the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil from its territorial waters, ahead of an International Maritime Organization ban currently in development to ban its use and carriage in the Arctic.”