Clean Arctic Alliance Hails IMO Move to Ban Heavy Fuel Oil From Arctic Shipping
London, 13th April 2018:- The Clean Arctic Alliance applauded progress by International Maritime Organization member states today towards banning use of the world’s dirtiest fuel – heavy fuel oil – from Arctic shipping, and called for 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.
Plans to develop a ban on heavy fuel oil (HFO) from Arctic shipping, along with an assessment of the impact of such a ban, were agreed upon during the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC72), which closed today in London. The meeting directed a sub-committee (PPR6) to develop a ban on heavy fuel oil use and carriage for use by ships in the Arctic, “on the basis of an assessment of the impacts” and “on an appropriate timescale” .
“Thanks to inspired and motivated action taken by a number of IMO member states to move towards a ban on heavy fuel oil, Arctic communities and ecosystems will be protected from the threat of oil spills, and the impact of black carbon emissions”, said Dr Sian Prior, lead advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance, a coalition of 18 non-governmental organisations working to end HFO use as marine fuel in Arctic waters. “A ban is the simplest and most effective way to mitigate the risks of HFO – and now we’re calling on the IMO to ensure that this ban will be in place by 2021. Any impact assessment must inform, but not delay progression towards an Arctic HFO ban, and member states must ensure that Arctic communities are not burdened with any costs associated with such a ban”, she continued.
The strongly-worded 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. Support from Denmark is particularly notable as it is the sixth Arctic nation to support the ban.
“With Denmark the sixth Arctic nation to back a ban on HFO from Arctic Shipping, the green alliance of Arctic nations have sent a clear message to the IMO” said Kåre Press-Kristensen, senior advisor in the Danish Ecological Council. “With both the Danish government and the Danish shipping industry united to ban HFO, we hope to gain further international support for the ban from more nations and progressive parts of the shipping industry. Next step will be to engage Greenland further in planning and preparing for the ban.”
Alaskan Verner Wilson, Senior Oceans Campaigner for Friends of the Earth US, a member of Curyung Tribal Council, with Yupik family roots in the Bering Strait region between Russia and the US said:
“I am grateful that IMO has advanced a ban on HFO to help protect Arctic communities and our traditional way of life. For thousands of years we have relied on our pristine waters and wildlife – and now the IMO has taken this important step to help protect our people and environment.”
Despite the shipping sector contributing to discussions supporting consideration of mitigation measures other than a ban during MEPC72, there is widespread support from within the industry, such as the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) – one of its members, expedition operator Hurtigruten made a clear call for an Arctic HFO ban during a Clean Arctic Alliance side event during MEPC. The Norwegian Shipowners Association and icebreaker company Arctia have also expressed support.
Tor Christian Sletner, head of environment, research and innovation at the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association was quoted by Politico as saying:
“Let me put it this way: An oil stain on the back of a female polar bear would be a disaster for the world, for the Arctic, for shipping, for everything…We know heavy fuel oil is very hard to pick up, we know that in this environment, with ice-infested waters, with darkness, with heavy cold, with long distances, accidents with a ship spilling heavy fuel oil in the water is very serious.” 
About Heavy Fuel Oil
Heavy fuel oil is a dirty and polluting fossil fuel that powers ships throughout our seas and oceans – accounting for 80% of marine fuel used worldwide. Climate change is fuelling high winter temperatures and driving sea ice melt, opening up Arctic waters to shipping. As the sea ice recedes, larger, non-Arctic state-flagged vessels running on HFO are likely to divert to Arctic waters in search of shorter journey times. This, combined with an increase in Arctic state-flagged vessels targeting previously non-accessible resources, will greatly increase the risks of HFO spills.
Around 75% of marine fuel currently carried in the Arctic is HFO; over half by vessels flagged to non-Arctic states – countries that have little if any connection to the Arctic (See also: Five briefing papers on the use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic).
Already banned in Antarctic waters, if HFO is spilled in cold polar waters, it breaks down slowly, proving almost impossible to clean up. A HFO spill would have long-term devastating effects on Arctic indigenous communities, livelihoods and the marine ecosystems they depend upon. HFO is also a greater source of harmful emissions of air pollutants, such as sulphur oxide, and particulate matter, including black carbon, than alternative fuels such as distillate fuel and liquefied natural gas (LNG). When emitted and deposited on Arctic snow or ice, the climate warming effect of black carbon is up to five times more than when emitted at lower latitudes, such as in the tropics.
Today’s agreement followed agreement made in July 2017 for MEPC to consider “development of measures to reduce risks of use and carriage of heavy fuel oil as fuel by ships in Arctic waters”. The Clean Arctic Alliance welcomed this move, stating that a ban on the use and carriage as fuel by ships operating in the Arctic is the simplest and most effective way to mitigate the effects of HFO.
Dave Walsh, Communications Advisor, HFO-Free Arctic Campaign, [email protected], +34 691 826 764
 In addition to assessing the impact of a ban on communities and developing a ban on HFO use and carriage as fuel in the Arctic, the Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) meeting PPR 6, which will be held in February 2019 will develop a definition of HFO taking into account regulation 43 of MARPOL Annex I (the Antarctic HFO ban) and prepare a set of guidelines on mitigation measures to reduce risks of use and carriage of HFO as fuel by ships in Arctic waters.
 The proposal, Development Of Measures to Reduce Risks Of Use and Carriage Of Heavy Fuel Oil as Fuel By Ships in Arctic Waters: Proposal to ban heavy fuel oil use and carriage as fuel by ships in Arctic waters, was submitted by Finland, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United States. The text includes:
“A single HFO spill could have devastating and lasting effects on fragile Arctic marine and coastal environments. In addition, Arctic shipping is projected to continue to rise, thus increasing the risk of a spill. For these reasons, the ban on HFO should be implemented as soon as possible, and any delay in implementation of the HFO ban by eligible ships should be short-lived… The co-sponsors propose that the implementation date of the ban be set for no later than the end of 2021.”
 Tor Christian Sletner, quoted in Politico’s Morning Transport newsletter, 13 April 2018
Further reading on HFO and Black Carbon
Infographic: Responding to Arctic Shipping Oil Spills: Risks and Challenges
Infographic: How Can We Reduce Black Carbon Emissions From International Shipping?
Report: Black Carbon Emissions and fuel use in global Shipping
Report: The impacts of an Arctic shipping HFO ban on emissions of Black Carbon
See also: Five briefing papers on the use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic, prepared by Bryan Comer PhD, The International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), for the Clean Arctic Alliance. These papers look at HFO use by flag state, by ship type, by shipowner, and looks in more depth at HFO use by cruise ships and by fishing vessels in the IMO Polar Code Arctic, 2015.
Danish Eco Council Report Cleaner Shipping: Focus on air pollution, technical solutions and regulation
More Clean Arctic Alliance publications on heavy fuel oil in the Arcticcan be downloaded here– plus some useful infographics, and our Frequently Asked Questions can be found here.
Russian and Canada
Russia: To date, Russia has not supported a ban, and while Russia sees a ban on the use and carriage of HFO as fuel as a last resort and prefers to explore other mitigation options, the Clean Arctic Alliance notes that a Russian state-owned shipping company Sovcomflot is speaking openly about the need to move away from oil-based fuels, and marine bunker fuel supplier Gazpromneft expects to halt fuel oil use from 2025.
Canada: Canada is 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 has previously supported a phase down on HFO and proposed work to mitigate the risks of HFO at MEPC71 in 2017. However, Canada has not yet taken a position on a ban of HFO in the Arctic.
In a Canadian Press story published on April 5th, Canada not on board plan to ban ‘dirty fuel’ use on Arctic shipping routes, Andrew Dumbrille of WWF, a Clean Arctic Alliance member, criticises Canada for ‘“sitting on their hands”’.
The article says that “Canada, however, wants a delay. It joined the Marshall Islands — one of the most popular places in the world for shipping companies to register their vessels — to submit a request for things to be slowed down until further study on the economic and other impacts of such a ban on Arctic communities can be completed.”
“Dumbrille said 2021 is three years away — plenty of time to develop a plan to get rid of “the dirtiest, the cheapest, the bottom of the barrel fuel on the planet” without placing a burden on northern communities.”
On April 11th 2018, a Radio Canada International Story Inuit activist blasts Canada’s foot-dragging on dirty fuels ban in the Arctic:While agreeing that “the threat of an accidental oil spill in Arctic waters remains the most significant threat from ships to the Arctic marine environment,” Ottawa urges the IMO to consider “economic and other impacts to Arctic communities associated with the restriction or phase out of heavy fuel in Arctic waters.”
“Ottawa should to stop procrastinating and get on board with the proposed ban on the use of highly polluting heavy fuel oil by ships operating in the Arctic, says Sheila Watt-Cloutier, a Nobel Peace Prize-nominated Inuit activist and author”, countering Canada’s position of consider “economic and other impacts to Arctic communities associated with the restriction or phase out of heavy fuel in Arctic waters.
“It’s one of the biggest threats because heavy fuel oil is extremely toxic and of course the possible potential for spillage into our Arctic marine ecosystem is deadly to us,” Watt-Cloutier said in a phone interview from London, where she participated in a panel discussion on the issue on the sidelines of the MEPC meeting.
Read the speech made by Sheila Watt Cloutier to the IMO’s MEPC meeting on April 10, 2018
MEPC72 July 2017: MEPC agrees to consider “development of measures to reduce risks of use and carriage of heavy fuel oil as fuel by ships in Arctic waters”. Clean Arctic Alliance response.
9th April 2018: IMO Member States Must Back Ban on Heavy Fuel Oil from Arctic Shipping
On March 13th, Foresight Climate and Energy Businessreported that one paper, co-sponsored by Finland, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the US, calls for a ban on HFO. On March 20th, Radio Canada International published a story, Canada moves to dilute Finnish proposal to ban dirty fuels in the Arctic, quoting from the MEPC paper:
“A single HFO spill could have devastating and lasting effects on fragile Arctic marine and coastal environments,” the Finnish proposal says. “In addition, Arctic shipping is projected to continue to rise, thus increasing the risk of a spill. For these reasons, the ban on HFO should be implemented as soon as possible, and any delay in implementation of the HFO ban by eligible ships should be short-lived.”
International Support for a Ban:
Over 100 shipping companies, cruise operators, ports, businesses, explorers, non-governmental organizations, writers and politicians have put their name to the Arctic Commitment, an ambitious civil society initiative calling for a ban on heavy fuel oil (HFO) from Arctic shipping, since its launch in Tromsø in January 2017.
Conceived by the Clean Arctic Alliance and expedition cruise ship operator Hurtigruten, the Arctic Commitment aims to protect Arctic communities and ecosystems from the
risks posed by the use of heavy fuel oil, and calls on the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to ban its use and carriage as fuel by Arctic shipping.
To view the text of the Arctic Commitment text its signatories, which includes writer photographer Yann Arthus-Bertrand, George Monbiot, IKEA, German and Icelandic ports, Lindblad Expeditions, UNEP Patron of the Oceans and polar swimmer Lewis Pugh, and polar explorers Liv Arnesen and Ann Bancroft, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, Pen Hadow and Alain Hubert, please visit the Arctic Commitment webpage.
About the Clean Arctic Alliance
The following not-for-profit organisations form the Clean Arctic Alliance, which is committed to a ban on HFO as marine fuel in the Arctic:
Alaska Wilderness League, Bellona, Clean Air Task Force, Danish Ecological Council, Ecology and Development Foundation ECODES, Environmental Investigation Agency, European Climate Foundation, Friends of the Earth US, Greenpeace, Icelandic Nature Conservation Association, Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union, Ocean Conservancy, Pacific Environment, Seas At Risk, Surfrider Foundation Europe, Stand.Earth, Transport & Environment and WWF.
More more information visit https://www.hfofreearctic.org/
Contact regarding any of the above:
Dave Walsh, Communications Advisor, HFO-Free Arctic Campaign, [email protected], +34 691 826 764