IMO Moves Towards Ban on HFO in the Arctic

Flags at IMO headquarters (file image)

By The Maritime Executive 04-13-2018 10:10:00

At this week's Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) meeting in London, IMO member states moved towards banning the use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic. Eight states and a range of NGOs proposed the ban as a means of limiting harm to the Arctic marine environment in the event of a spill. 

Finland, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United States sponsored the proposal, which calls for a full HFO prohibition on a rapid timetable. "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 petitioners wrote. "The co-sponsors propose that the implementation date of the ban be set for no later than the end of 2021.”

The proposal received backing from 14 other nations, and at the meeting, MEPC 72 delegates directed a subcommittee to develop text for a ban on the carriage and use of HFO, along with a study of its impact. MEPC's Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) will meet in February 2019 to carry out this task. 

“Arctic communities and ecosystems will be protected from the threat of oil spills and the impact of soot emissions on accelerated sea ice melt, thanks to the inspired and motivated action taken by a number of member states to move toward a ban on heavy fuel oil,” said Kendra Ulrich, senior shipping campaigner with environmental NGO Stand.earth. “Ending the use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic waters is the most effective way to avoid the environmental threats it poses to this fragile ecosystem."

She noted that while the IMO's regulatory process may take several years to implement a ban, the companies that use HFO may voluntarily stop using it in the Arctic at any time. "They can and must follow the lead of the IMO and act now to end their use of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuel,” said Ulrich.