Responding to reports that the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) had reconfirmed its support of a ban on heavy fuel oil (HFO) from Arctic shipping during its annual general meeting, Clean Arctic Alliance advisor Dr Sian Prior said:
“The Clean Arctic Alliance welcomes AECO’s reconfirmation of its support for an international ban on heavy fuel oil in Arctic waters. AECO’s decision demonstrates the growing conviction within the shipping industry that the Arctic is simply too vulnerable and too fragile to allow the use of this dirtiest of fuels, and that HFO can no longer be considered an option for powering Arctic shipping in the future”.
“By acknowledging the threats posed by spills and black carbon emissions from heavy fuel oil, the Arctic cruise industry has recognised that while it expands, it must phase out of this dirty fuel in order to protect the environment and human health, and safeguard coastal communities and food security”, continued Prior.
“AECO, and other shipping industry leaders must now take us out of the HFO era by urging member countries to bring forward concrete proposals for a ban by the next meeting of the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC71), in May 2017. The Clean Arctic Alliance looks forward to working with industry to achieve a HFO-free Arctic”.
At last month’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC70) meeting in London, the Clean Arctic Alliance welcomed the progress made by member countries towards a phase-out of the use of HFO in the Arctic. 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.
In order to implement a ban on HFO, the IMO will need to add new work on the regulation of HFO to its programme, and set a deadline for completion of this work, in order to phase out Arctic HFO by 2020.
Heavy fuel oil (HFO) is a toxic, 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. While HFO powers 44% of the ships currently operating in the Arctic, it accounts for more than 75% of the fuel onboard those ships, according to ICCT figures.
In September 2016, the United States and Canada formally notified the International Maritime Organization that a “heavy fuel oil spill in the Arctic could cause long-term damage to the environment”. This follows March 2016 commitments made by U.S. President Obama and Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau to “determine with Arctic partners how best to address the risks posed by heavy fuel oil use and black carbon emissions from Arctic shipping”. Also in September, the Danish political party Venstre, the Danish Shipowner’s Association, and Arctic cruise sector leader Hurtigruten called for regulating or banning the use of HFO in the Arctic. In October, the CEO Finnish of icebreaker operator Arctia expressed support for a ban on HFO.
Heavy fuel oil is already banned throughout Antarctica, and in the national park waters around the Norwegian Arctic archipelago of Svalbard, leaving only a strictly regulated corridor for ships to access the islands.