Responding to the December 20th joint statement from the United States and Canada, regarding development of a strategy to phase out their use of heavy fuel oil (HFO) from vessels operating in the Arctic, the Clean Arctic Alliance praised both Arctic nations for their ambitious action to rid the region of the dirtiest marine fuel.
“The Clean Arctic Alliance applauds the commitment of President Obama and Prime Minister Trudeau to develop a concrete proposal to phase down HFO use in the Arctic”, said Clean Arctic Alliance advisor Dr Sian Prior. “With ship traffic in the Arctic expected to grow dramatically as Arctic sea ice continues to decline, this announcement demonstrates real regional leadership towards protecting the Arctic from future harm.”
The US and Canada have also agreed to propose a plan for the next meeting of the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 71, July 2017) in order to implement the work necessary for a phase out.
“HFO is the dirtiest fuel available to the shipping industry, and poses threats from spills and black carbon emissions that are too great to ignore”, continued Prior. “For the sake of the marine environment and the coastal communities and wildlife that depend upon it, it is clear that Arctic shipping cannot continue relying on HFO as fuel. The Clean Arctic Alliance calls on other IMO member countries to support the initiative taken by the US and Canada, so that the Arctic becomes HFO free”.
Heavy fuel oil (HFO) is a viscous, tar-like sludge that breaks down extremely slowly in cold Arctic waters and is close to impossible to clean up in the event of a spill. Currently HFO powers 44% of the ships currently operating in the Arctic, but it accounts for more than 75% of the fuel onboard Arctic ships, according to ICCT figures.
The December 20th announcement builds on past statements made by the United States and Canada. In September 2016 at MEPC 70, the two nations formally notified the International Maritime Organization that a “heavy fuel oil spill in the Arctic could cause long-term damage to the environment”. Several Arctic countries, as well as IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim, stated their concerns regarding HFO and on the need for further consideration of the risks involved.
Industry groups including the Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) and the Danish Shipowners Association, along with cruise company Hurtigruten and Finnish icebreakers Arctia have also expressed their support for a ban on the use of HFO in the Arctic.
Heavy fuel oil is already banned throughout Antarctica, and in the national park waters around the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard.