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Expedition Cruise Operators Agree on Voluntary Arctic HFO Ban

The Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) has approved a self-imposed ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil (HFO) in the Arctic. 

As explained, the current practice among the association’s members is to refrain from using HFO when sailing in the Arctic. This practice has now been formalized as a mandatory guideline.

“AECO represents the great majority of operators that offer expedition cruising in the Arctic. By formalizing this ban, the expedition cruise industry is sending a message to decision-makers that it is time to act to protect the Arctic from the risk of HFO pollution,” Frigg Jørgensen, AECO Executive Director, pointed out.

AECO was an early signatory of the Arctic Commitment which calls for a phase-out of polluting HFO from Arctic shipping. The initiative by the Clean Arctic Alliance and cruise ship operator Hurtigruten was launched in Norway in 2017.

At a recent annual meeting by AECO, the organization’s members also decided that AECO should concentrate its focus on its core segment, namely expedition cruising.

AECO is stepping up efforts in Iceland and has established an Iceland resource group. Together with Icelandic partners, the association is also looking into how expedition cruise operators can contribute to beach clean-ups in Iceland.

Several new Arctic guidelines were made mandatory in preparation for the 2020 Arctic cruise season, with seven new specific guidelines for communities in Greenland and Canada being in the pipeline.

Separately, the Clean Arctic Alliance has welcomed the decision made by AECO’s 30 expedition companies regarding the use of HFO in the Arctic.

That so many shipping and associated companies have recognised the risks associated with HFO, including both oil spill risks and black carbon emissions, by signing up for a ban, sends a strong message to decision-makers in Arctic governments and all International Maritime Organization Member States – who must pay heed,” Sian Prior, Clean Arctic Alliance Lead Advisor, commented.

“AECO members are demonstrating that not only is it possible to end the use and carriage of HFO in the Arctic, but that the expedition cruise sector is prepared to lead the way. In comparison, the conventional cruise industry still has a long way to go towards getting rid of HFO on board its ships: it should take note, and follow the lead of the expedition cruise industry,” she further said.

Note: The article has been amended since initial publishing with a statement by the Clean Arctic Alliance released on November 14.