International Maritime Organization makes progress on heavy fuel oil ban in Arctic waters

Ban would prevent cruise, shipping industries from using ultra-dirty fuel to power its ships in the Arctic, where a spill would be devastating to Indigenous communities and the remote, pristine environment

Arctic Cruise

London, UK — As the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC 73) closes today in London, Stand.earth, the Clean Arctic Alliance, and Arctic Indigenous groups welcomed the support given by member states to commence work on developing a ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil in Arctic waters.

Support was voiced by Austria, Bangladesh, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Poland, and the UK.

MEPC 73 considered impact assessment methodology ahead of sending 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 ban — to the on Pollution Prevention and Response subcommittee (PPR6) in February 2019.

“I welcome the progress made this week by the International Maritime Organization to develop a ban on the use and carriage of HFO as fuel in Arctic shipping — a ban that must be in place as soon as possible. Our Arctic communities, wildlife and ocean need it, as they are already stressed by climate change and increased shipping in the region. The world depends on and benefits from a healthy Arctic Ocean,” said Delbert Pungowiyi, President of the Native Village of Savoonga, Alaska.

“Arctic Indigenous organizations representing our people, such as the Inuit Circumpolar Council and Alaska Federation of Natives, have adopted a resolution calling for a ban on HFO in the Arctic,” added George Edwardson, President of the Iñupiat community of the Arctic Slope and Board Member for Inuit Circumpolar Council – Alaska. “The international maritime community must do the responsible thing and listen to Arctic indigenous peoples who depend on a healthy Arctic marine environment.”

“The potential for heavy fuel oil spills and pollution threaten the smaller organisms of the Arctic and Bering Sea that sustain our fish, such as salmon, and marine mammals, and thus threaten us as a people, and our way of life,” said Verner Wilson, Senior Oceans Campaigner, Friends of the Earth US and member of the Curyung Tribal Council in Bristol Bay, Alaska. “IMO member state governments have banned HFO in Antarctic waters — now they have the responsibility to give the same protection to Arctic waters, on which our communities depend.”

“We’re pleased with progress made at MEPC this week, and the support given by several member states to ensure that work to develop a ban on use and carriage of heavy fuel oil by ships in Arctic waters will now commence early in 2019,” said Dr Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance. “It is important that this work is concluded swiftly, so that the ban can be adopted in 2021, and phased in by 2023. We look forward to considering information from Arctic countries including Canada, United States, Greenland (Denmark), and Russia, on the potential social, economic and environmental impacts of a ban.”

During MEPC73, the Clean Arctic Alliance hosted or supported a number of events, including a Arctic Photo Exhibition: On Our Watch, introduced by Arctic explorer Pen Hadow, who address the IMO Chair during a plenary intervention. Find the full text here.

Also during MEPC73, a delegation of Arctic Indigenous leaders and marine and environmental experts with the Clean Up Carnival coalition delivered a petition signed by 104,000 concerned people from countries across Europe and North America, to cruise giant Carnival Corporation at its UK headquarters in Southampton, demanding that it cease burning heavy fuel oil in the Arctic and Subarctic. Read the press release: Indigenous leaders, environmental groups tell Carnival Corporation to stop polluting the Arctic

“Carnival claims that sustainability and human rights are core company values, but it cannot be an environmental leader while burning one of the dirtiest fossil fuels in the pristine Arctic. We are asking Carnival to step up to meet its own higher standards, respect the express will of Arctic peoples, and end its use of heavy fuel oil in this fragile and imperilled region,” said Kendra Ulrich, Senior Shipping Campaigner for Stand.earth. “Carnival can become an industry leader by making the move sooner than international regulations would require.”

Representatives from Clean Up Carnival Coalition member organizations include Stand.earth (North America); Transport & Environment (Europe); Friends of the Earth US; Pacific Environment (North America, Europe, Asia). Alaska Native and Arctic Indigenous communities participated in the delivery of the petition. 

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Media contact: Virginia Cleaveland, Press Secretary, Stand.earth, virginia@stand.earth, 510-858-9902