Canada bans use and carriage of HFO by ships in Canadian Arctic

Transport Canada has taken action to address the environmental impacts of marine shipping by implementing a ban on heavy fuel oil (HFO) use by vessels in the Arctic.

Illustration. Source: IMO on Flickr under CC BY 2.0 DEED license

On June 28, 2024, the Minister of Transport, Pablo Rodriguez, announced the Government of Canada is moving forward with a domestic ban on the use and carriage for use as fuel of heavy fuel oils in Arctic waters that will be implemented on July 1, 2024.

The ban will be implemented through an interim order while the regulations are being amended. All double hulled ships will be exempted from the HFO ban until July 1, 2029, and ships involved in Arctic community resupply can apply for a waiver until July 1, 2026.

The measure is in line with an international ban on the use of HFO which came into effect on July 1, 2024.

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Decarbonizing the marine sector is said to be a key part of growing a clean net-zero economy. It requires sector-wide collaboration and innovation to reduce the impact of shipping emissions on surrounding communities and ecosystems, while supporting economic growth, the government said.

The northern Indigenous and Inuit communities have been using HFO for resupply in the Canadian Arctic. Transport Canada said it continues to work with Arctic communities, Indigenous and Inuit groups, government, industry, and environmental stakeholders to protect the environment.

“Banning heavy fuel oils will protect the Arctic environment and northern communities from the disastrous effects of heavy fuel oil spills. Canada will always work with other countries, northern residents, and marine stakeholders to keep our environment protected for future generations,” Minister of Transport said.

Heavy fuel oil is the main fuel used in international shipping. In Canada’s Arctic, this fuel is commonly used by certain vessels engaged in community resupply, bulk carriers serving mining projects and by some larger fishing vessels.

A heavy fuel oil spill in the Arctic would have grave consequences given the limited marine traffic and infrastructure, and the environment there. In February 2020, the Government of Canada announced support for a global ban on heavy fuel oil in the Arctic. The ban was adopted by the IMO in 2021.

Earlier this year, the Clean Arctic Alliance urged the International Maritime Organization (IMO) member states to agree to the creation of new areas in the Arctic that will be protected from polluting air emissions from shipping. Canada and Norway proposed the creation of Emission Control Areas (ECAs) in Canadian Arctic waters and the Norwegian Sea, respectively. The proposal could provide additional protection from air emissions in Canadian Arctic waters and the Norwegian Sea by reducing emissions of sulphur oxides (SOx), particulate matter and nitrogen oxides (NOx) from international shipping.

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