PPR6: Clean Arctic Alliance Hails Progress on Heavy Fuel Oil Ban But Warns Arctic Nations To Remain Focussed

HFO Free Arctic

PPR6: Clean Arctic Alliance Hails Progress on Heavy Fuel Oil Ban But Warns Arctic Nations To Remain Focussed

London, February 22, 2019:– As a meeting of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 6) closes today in London, the Clean Arctic Alliance welcomed progress but calls on Arctic Nations Russia and Canada to step-up to their responsibilities by adding their support for a ban on heavy fuel oil (HFO) from use by Arctic shipping, and for Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland and the United States, who already support the ban, to remain focussed on ensuring it is adopted in 2021, and phased in by 2023.

“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”, said Dr Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance [1]. “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.”

During PPR 6, IMO Member States finalised a methodology for assessing the impact of a HFO ban on Arctic ecosystems, Indigenous local communities and economies, and commenced the work needed to define what types of fuel will be banned and how they will be banned. As well as considering how to reduce the risks of HFO in the Arctic, PPR 6 also addressed black carbon emissions from shipping that impact the Arctic, and finalised a list of ways that emissions, which are produced by burning oil-based fuels, including HFO, can be reduced. There was, however, no prioritisation of the most effective measures, and further consideration of emissions of black carbon will now be discussed at MEPC74 in May 2019.

In addition to the usual country delegates, industry and environmental observers, PPR 6 also heard from the voices of representatives of Indigenous Arctic communities who would be most directly affected by a spill of HFO, and also by any increases in costs as a result of a HFO ban.

“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”, said Lisa Koperqualuk, Vice-President of Inuit Circumpolar Council Canada (ICC Canada). “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.” [2]

During PPR 6, Ms. Koperqualuk delivered a presentation pointing out that Inuit regions are supportive of a ban on the use of HFOs in Arctic waters. This is consistent with the July, 2018 ICC Utqiaġvik Declaration, Article 18, that directs ICC to: “advocate for the enforcement of the IMO Polar Code, other international and national regulations, advance emergency response, and phase out heavy fuel oil (HFO) in order to minimize impacts on marine mammals and fish and to prevent disruption of seasonal hunting, and for safety and environmental protection.” Koperqualuk noted, “This must be done without putting undue cost or burden on our communities.” [3]

“There is still much work to be done”, said Prior, “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”.



Dave Walsh, Communications Advisor, HFO-Free Arctic Campaign, [email protected], +34 691 826 764


IMO Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR)


Clean Arctic Alliance press release, 18 February 2019: PPR 6: IMO Member States Must Stay Focussed on Arctic Heavy Fuel Oil Ban


[1] “At this session you will start work on the development of measures to reduce the risks of use and carriage of heavy fuel oil as fuel by ships in Arctic waters. With future vessel traffic in Arctic waters projected to rise, the associated risk of an accidental oil spill into Arctic waters may also increase. It is therefore imperative that the Organization takes robust action to reduce the risks to the Arctic marine environment associated with the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil as fuel by ships. ” IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim, at PPR 6, 18 February 2019.


[2] ICC Canada Brings Inuit Message to London IMO Meeting: Time to Ban HFO’s in Arctic Shipping


[3] Utqiaġvik Declaration, July 2018, As declared by the Inuit of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Chukotka (page 4)



See An Arctic Heavy Fuel Oil Ban: The Story So Far – an infographic which shows the timeline towards an HFO ban.

At MEPC 72 in April 2018, Arctic states of Finland, Iceland, Sweden, Norway and the United States, along with Germany, the Netherlands and New Zealand, proposed a ban on the use and carriage as fuel of HFO by ships operating in the Arctic as the simplest approach to reducing the risks associated with HFO. The proposal, 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 leading to an agreement, in principle, to the ban. Support from Denmark was particularly notable as it is the sixth Arctic nation to support the ban. In September, Greenland announced that it would add its support for a ban. Support from non-Arctic countries was significant as many can and do flag ships operating in the Arctic.

In July 2018, the Inuit of Alaska, Canada, Greenland and Chukotka added further weight to the calls to end the use of HFO in the Arctic in the Utqiagvik Declaration (page 4). In October 2018, the Alaska Federation of Natives passed a resolution calling for a concerted effort to convince decision-makers to phase out the use of heavy fuel oil, or HFO, in Arctic waters read draft resolutions document here.

At the October 2018 IMO gathering of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 73), support for the work – to mitigate the risks of using and carrying HFO in the Arctic, including developing a ban – to commence at the PPR 6 technical meeting, was voiced by Austria, Bangladesh, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Poland, the United States and the UK.

At MEPC 73, IMO member states considered impact assessment methodology, before deciding to send the “Scope of Work”- which sets out the work to be done to reduce the risks associated with the “use and carriage of heavy fuel oil as fuel by ships in Arctic waters”, including the proposal for a HFO ban, to this week’s PPR 6 meeting.

Canada and Russia

Canada and Russia have both supported IMO work to consider ways to mitigate the risks associated with HFO, but Canada has yet to take a position on a ban.

Recent analysis by CE DELFT of the potential impact of a HFO ban on consumer goods found that additional costs of food shipped to Iqaluit in Northern Canada would increase household expenditure by 0.2%, assuming that the ban-related additional transport costs are fully passed on (although other newly published research has shown that there was no correlation between fuel costs and food prices in the same region between 2014 – 2017). The Clean Arctic Alliance calls on governments to consider how to mitigate any possible cost increase, however small, that could be experienced by Arctic communities.

To date, Russia has considered a ban on use of HFO in the Arctic as a “last resort”. However, one of the biggest users of HFO in the Arctic, Russian state-owned shipping company Sovcomflot has spoken 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. Significantly, in August 2018, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Finnish President Sauli Niinisto made a joint statement on the need to move to cleaner ships’ fuels, such as LNG in the Arctic. Furthermore, Russia has also announced its intention to massively increase the volumes of cargoes transported on the Northern Sea Route – setting itself a target of 80 million tonnes by 2024, of which 40% would be LNG. For more information, see our paper Heavy Fuel Oil use in the IMO Polar Code Arctic by Russian-flagged Ships, 2015.

Support for a ban on the use and carriage of HFO has grown since the Arctic Council published its 2009 Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA), identifying that an oil spill is the greatest threat to the Arctic from shipping; according to Det Norske Veritas (DNV), in a report published by the Arctic Council, using distillates instead of HFO as fuel would achieve significant spill risk reduction. The Arctic Commitment, launched in 2017 by the Clean Arctic Alliance and Hurtigruten has been signed by 130 cruise operators, journalists, explorers, shipping companies, Indigenous representatives and others, calling for a ban (see more below)

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. 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.

The Arctic is under pressure – climate change is fuelling temperature rises double the rate of further south. As sea ice melts and opens up Arctic waters further, even 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.

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 (see infographic: Responding to Arctic Shipping Oil Spills: Risks and Challenges).

Further Reading:


See also:   

The Arctic Commitment

130 shipping companies, cruise operators, ports, businesses, explorers, non-governmental organizations and politicians have put their name to the Arctic Commitment, an ambitious civil society initiative calling for 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 read the Arctic Commitment text and view the list of signatories, including IKEA, German and Icelandic ports, Lindblad Expeditions, UNEP Patron of the Oceans and polar swimmer Lewis Pugh, 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, Iceland 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/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/CleanArctic