Arctic Alliance backs IMO move to ban HFO from arctic shipping

The Clean Arctic Alliance has praised the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for its move towards banning the use of heavy fuel oil from Arctic shipping.

Last week IMO member states committed to developing a ban on heavy fuel oil (HFO) from Arctic shipping, along with an assessment of the impact of such a ban.

The CAA, a coalition of 18 non-governmental organisations working to end HFO use as marine fuel in Arctic waters, called for IMO member states to make every effort to adopt and rapidly implement a ban by 2021, as proposed by eight IMO Member States and supported by other countries during the meeting.

The proposal to ban HFO as shipping fuel from Arctic waters was co-sponsored by Finland, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the US.

The proposal for a ban, along with a proposal to assess the impact of such a ban on Arctic communities from Canada, was supported by Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Ireland, Japan, the League of Arab States, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK.

The CAA said that around 75% of marine fuel currently carried in the Arctic was HFO; over half by vessels flagged to non-Arctic states.

Already banned in Antarctic waters, if HFO is spilled in cold polar waters, it breaks down slowly and would prove very difficult to clean up.

Russia and Canada:

Russia has not yet supported a ban, preferring to explore other mitigation options. CAA noted that a Russian state-owned shipping company Sovcomflot was speaking openly about the need to move away from oil-based fuels, and marine bunker fuel supplier Gazpromneft expected to halt fuel oil use from 2025.

Canada has not yet taken a position on a ban of HFO in the Arctic. The CAA noted that Canada was committed to investigating options to mitigate the risks and impacts of using HFO in the Arctic, and study how those measures impact Arctic communities. Canada had previously supported a phase down on HFO and proposed work to mitigate the risks of HFO.