Record Northern Sea Route volume prompts fresh call for HFO ban

Clean Arctic Alliance calls for member state support at MEPC 72 in April.

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Updated on 23 Jan 2018 12:07 GMT

The Clean Arctic Alliance - a coalition of international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) - has responded to the latest figures for goods shipped along the Northern Sea Route in 2017 by once again calling for a ban on the use of heavy fuel oil (HFO) in Arctic waters.

According to data from the Russian Federal Agency for Maritime and River Transport, 9.737 million tonnes of goods were shipped on the Northern Sea Route last year - up 2.437 million tonnes, or 33.4 percent, on 7.3 million tonnes recorded in 2016.

In a statement, Dr Sian Prior, lead advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance, said: "The reduced sea ice extent is already attracting more shipping into Arctic waters, in a search for shorter routes and cost savings, a trend that will continue for the foreseeable future. Not only is traffic expanding along the Arctic's Northern Sea Route, but also along the Northwest Passage to the north of Canada and the US, and even across the central Arctic Ocean. This growth in traffic brings an increased risk of oil spills, and greater emissions of black carbon, which exacerbates the melting of sea ice."

"With the next meeting of the IMO's Marine Environment Protection Committee coming up in April, we're calling on member states to back a ban on the use of heavy fuel oil - the dirtiest from shipping fuels - from vessels operating in Arctic waters," Prior added.

Back in July, the Clean Arctic Alliance welcomed the support from member states at the Marine Environment Protection Committee's (MEPC) 71st session for a proposal to identify measures which will mitigate the risks posed by the use of HFO in Arctic waters, and called on the IMO to work towards a swift conclusion of the work.

The proposal, 'Measures to Reduce Risks of Use and Carriage of Heavy Fuel Oil as Fuel by Ships in Arctic Waters', was put forward by Canada, Finland, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway and the US, and supported by the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Poland, Singapore, Spain and Sweden.

Concrete proposals for measures to reduce the risks of HFO are expected to be considered by MEPC 72 in April.