If immediate action isn’t taken by the IMO, the shipping industry’s use of very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) - introduced to comply with the 2020 sulphur cap - will lead to a massive increase in Black Carbon emissions, and this will both accelerate the melting of Arctic sea ice and have a major impact on Earth’s climate,

...said Dr Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance, a coalition of non-governmental organisations working for a ban on heavy fuel oil from Arctic shipping.

VLSFOs have been introduced in response to the 2020 sulphur cap, which has taken implementation since 1st January 2020.

A paper submitted by Germany and Finland to the IMO’s PPR 7 meeting, due in February, found that these new blends contain high levels of aromatic compounds which, when combusted, lead to an increase in emissions of black carbon when compared with heavier fuels and distillate fuels.

There are serious questions to be answered about how these blended super pollutant ‘Frankenstein’ fuels ever came to market. It beggars belief that amidst a global climate crisis, the marine fuel industry could develop these VLSFOs without knowing their effect on Black Carbon emissions and the climate, particularly in the Arctic - especially as the IMO has spent almost a decade considering how to reduce Black Carbon emissions from shipping,

...said John Maggs, Senior Policy Advisor at Seas at Risk.

With this respect, the Clean Arctic Alliance has written a letter containing the following questions to representatives of the marine fuel industry:

  • Were you aware that these new low sulphur heavy fuel blends had higher aromatic content?
  • Were you aware of the link between higher aromatic content in fuels and higher BC emissions?
  • If the answer to the above questions is “yes”, then why did you not immediately seek to halt the production of these fuels and alert the IMO?

The letter was sent to IACS, IBIA, IPIECA, IMarEST, IUMI, OCIMF, and the Royal Institute of Naval Architects - all of whom have consultative status to the IMO.

The letter was also sent to ARA, Concawe, CIMAC and JPEC.

All of the organisations were chosen because they are mentioned as co-authors of of the Joint Industry Guidance on “The supply and use of 0.50%-sulphur marine fuel” published in August 2019.

At next month’s PPR 7 meeting in London, the IMO must support an immediate switch to distillate fuels for ships in the Arctic and agree to develop a global rule prohibiting fuels with high Black Carbon emissions; in addition, IMO Members must adopt a resolution calling on shipowners, charterers, and fuel providers and other stakeholders to implement these measures on a voluntary basis while new regulations are developed and enter into force,

...concluded Prior.

Black carbon is a short-lived climate forcer, second only to CO2 in terms of international shipping’s contribution to global climate. Black Carbon represents 7% to 21% of shipping’s overall GHG equivalent impact on the climate.

In 2011, the UN Economic Cooperation for Europe (UNECE) urged the IMO to act on Black Carbon, while in 2013/14 the Climate and Clean Air Coalition (CCAC) renewed a call for action on ship Black Carbon.

In 2017, the Arctic Council established a target of a 25 - 33 percent reduction in Black Carbon emissions below 2013 levels by 2025 for all sources.