New Initiative to End Use of HFO in the Arctic Launched

The Our Ocean Arctic Commitment, an international initiative to end use of heavy fuel oil (HFO) by Arctic shipping, was launched at the Our Ocean conference in Malta on October 6.

As explained, the aim of the initiative is to expand collaboration between the cruise industry, environmental NGOs and indigenous communities in order to protect the Arctic environment, its wildlife and its peoples.

The threat of a heavy fuel oil spill not only poses a severe risk to Arctic ecosystems but burning it as marine fuel is contributing to increased ice melt in the Arctic. HFO has already been banned in the Antarctic because of the risks it poses to vulnerable, fragile ecosystems and to wildlife, and because of the difficulty in responding to a spill in remote locations, according to HFO – Free Arctic campaign.

The Our Ocean Arctic Commitment, which brings together the Clean Arctic Alliance, the Eyak Preservation Council, Hurtigruten and the European Climate Foundation, follows the January 2017 launch of the Arctic Commitment, which has already been signed by more than 50 parties and aims to increase the awareness and grow support for the commitment to ban the use of the most polluting of shipping fuels in Arctic waters. The objective of the new initiative is to expand the Arctic Commitment to over one hundred Arctic voices.

“Following the success of the Arctic Commitment since we launched in Tromsø in January, and recent commitments made by IMO member states regarding measures to mitigate the effects of heavy fuel oil at MEPC71, we are honoured to launch this new commitment at Our Ocean, calling on industry, environmental NGOs and indigenous communities to join us in working towards an eventual Arctic ban on use and carriage of shipping’s dirtiest fuel,” Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance, commented.

“Our Alaskan community was the ground zero for the devastating impacts of the 1989 Exxon-Valdez oil spill- the harmful effects linger to this day,” Carol Hoover, Executive Director of the Eyak Preservation Council, said.

“A dangerous heavy fuel oil (HFO) spill would be catastrophic and forever life changing for the people who depend on their pristine habitat. We need to do everything we can to prevent this from happening in the Arctic marine environment,” Hoover added.

“The use of heavy fuel oil (HFO) has already been banned in the Antarctic, now it’s time to ban it in the Arctic as well. The shipping industry must be frontrunners in promoting regulations that will secure sustainable Arctic growth,” Daniel Skjeldam, CEO of expedition cruise operator Hurtigruten, pointed out.

“An accident involving a mega ship and spill of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic would represent an environmental disaster. If heavy fuel oil is spilled in cold Arctic waters, it will have larger consequences than anywhere else,” Skjeldam continued.