Following the action by the IMO to approve a ban ridden with loopholes on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic (HFO), Clean Arctic Alliance slammed this decision.
Namely, the ban was approved during a virtual meeting of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 75).
According to the Clean Arctic Alliance, this decision would leave the Arctic, its Indigenous communities and its wildlife facing the risk of a HFO spill for another decade.
To remind, heavy fuel oil is a dirty and polluting fossil fuel that powers shipping throughout the world’s oceans, accounting for 80% of marine fuel used globally.
Specifically, approximately 80% 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.
In light of the situation, the alliance called the inclusion of loopholes – in the form of exemptions and waivers – in the draft regulation “outrageous”, as they mean a HFO ban would not come into effect until mid 2029.
By taking the decision to storm ahead with the approval of this outrageous ban, the IMO and its member states must take collective responsibility for failing to put in place true protection of the Arctic, Indigenous communities and wildlife from the threat of heavy fuel oil.
…said Dr Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance.
With the ban now scheduled to go forward for adoption at MEPC 76, the Clean Arctic Alliance called for waivers to not be granted by Arctic coastal states and for the deadline beyond which exemptions would not apply to be brought forward.
In its current form, the ban will achieve only a minimal reduction in HFO use and carriage by ships in the Arctic in mid-2024, when it comes into effect. It is now crucial that Arctic coastal states do not resort to issuing waivers to their flagged vessels.
….Dr Sian Prior added.
What is more, Clean Arctic Alliance believes that the approved ban means that a full 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.
…Dr Sian Prior continued.
For the records, under the new regulations, five central Arctic coastal States – Russia, Norway, Denmark (Greenland), Canada and the United States will have the option of issuing waivers to their own flagged ships while they are operating in their own waters.
A ‘ban’ that affects just a quarter of ships is not a ban at all. The IMO’s new regulation fails to treat all flags equally, allowing the five central Arctic coastal states to issue waivers that will allow all ships flying their flag to continue to use HFO out to the furthest stretches of their EEZs, thus rewarding their own-flagged vessels, while other ships must comply with the regulation. This is regardless of ship type, size, or age, or whether or not they have protected fuel tanks.
….said John Maggs, Senior Policy Advisor at Seas at Risk.
Concluding, Clean Arctic urged IMO to consider how the ban can be strengthened ahead of formal adoption next year, and for individual states to examine domestic options for providing the protection required for the Arctic from the risks of HFO use and carriage, such as Norway’s recent proposal to ban HFO from the waters around Svalbard.
Today’s approval of the ban will inevitably cause widespread confusion, with the wider world assuming that a ban means ending HFO use in the Arctic when in fact, the IMO has put in place only a modest and likely temporary reduction in its use for the first ten years. We cannot wait ten years to stop HFO use in the Arctic. Ten years is simply too long to wait!.
….as Mellisa Johnson, Director of the Bering Sea Elders Group concluded.