IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) has moved to ban the use of heavy fuel oil (HFO) and its carriage for use by ships in Arctic waters after 1 July 2024
However the move has been criticised by environmental groups as lacking real regulatory control, as the legislation contains loopholes and exemptions in addition to the enforcement period which extends well into the 2020s.
One provision exempts ships with oil fuel tanks inside their double hull, while another gives countries in Arctic waters the right to issue waivers from the HFO ban for vessels flying their respective flags in the Arctic until 1 July 2029.
In light of these exemptions and waivers, the Clean Arctic Alliance, a coalition of several environmental groups including the World Wildlife Fund, criticised the move and the coalition’s lead advisor Dr Sian Prior said the ban in its current form will only achieve “a minimal reduction” in HFO use and carriage by ships in the Arctic.
She added “The ban that IMO has approved today will mean that three-quarters of the ships using HFO today will be eligible for an exemption to the ban, because their fuel tanks are ‘protected’, or because they can apply to an Arctic coastal state for a waiver from the ban.”
“As a result, the use of HFO in the Arctic is likely to continue to grow until the ban takes full effect in 2029 – so not only does the ban not sufficiently protect the Arctic, it’s actually contributing to a greater exposure to the risks associated with the use of heavy fuel oil.”
HFO use in the Arctic also faced calls within the industry to be curtailed when in 2018 German container ports Bremen and Bremerhaven joined a campaign to ban heavy fuel oil from Arctic shipping.
The ban is expected to be formally adopted at the next MEPC session in June 2021.
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