Heavy fuel oil ban: Clean Arctic Alliance urges focus

heavy fuel oil ban
© iStock/PietroPazzi

In the wake of the International Maritime Organisation’s (IMO) moves towards a ban on heavy fuel oil, the Clean Arctic Alliance has called for further action.

A meeting of the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 6) last week began to draw up provisional lists of which harmful shipping fuels would be subject to a ban in the future, as well as an array of potential measures to reduce black carbon emissions; but did not define priorities for these measures. It is hoped that the IMO will officially adopt a ban on heavy fuel oil (HFO), supported by Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden and the USA, by 2021 so that it can be phased into international maritime law by 2023.

The Clean Arctic Alliance, a consortium of not-for-profit organisations committed to protecting the Arctic from the harmful effects of heavy fuel oil, called on Russia and Canada to support the proposed ban. Russia and Canada, both Arctic nations, are the world’s two leading consumers of heavy fuel oil.

Dr Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance, said: “Earlier this week, the IMO Secretary General stressed the urgency of the International Maritime Organization taking robust action to reduce the risks to the Arctic marine environment from the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil as fuel by shipping. With the countdown to a ban on HFO use and carriage as fuel by Arctic shipping now ticking away, the Clean Arctic Alliance welcomes the progress made this week at PPR 6. Today, we are one-step closer to improving the protection of the Arctic, its people and wildlife.”

PPR 6 heard from campaigners, industry experts and representatives of Member States on the importance of a future ban on heavy fuel oil; as well as a delegation from the indigenous communities of Arctic regions, who would be the most directly affected both by potential heavy oil spills and by any rise in costs resulting from a heavy fuel oil ban.

Lisa Koperqualuk, Vice-President of Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada (ICC Canada), said: “With more than 50% of the daily Inuit diet coming from the land and sea, the value of a clean environment and sea ice cover is immeasurable. A HFO spill in the Arctic would put these Indigenous and local community values at significant risk – Inuit communities are much more at risk from food insecurity compared to the rest of the Canadian population; transportation costs are high, and most supplies, including food, comes by the annual sealift.”

Dr Prior added: “There is still much work to be done before the Arctic ecosystem and Indigenous local communities are afforded the same level of protection as Antarctic waters from the risks of heavy fuel oil. It is imperative that when the PPR Sub-Committee meets again in early 2020, it finalises the development of a new regulation to ban HFO use and carriage as fuel in the Arctic.”

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