Arctic fuel oil ban edges closer

Arctic fuel oil ban edges closer

Pressure is mounting for the IMO to ban heavy fuel oil (HFO) for use and carriage as a fuel in the Arctic. But while some want to a ban to be introduced as soon as possible, others want to ensure that it won’t be pushed through before knowing the outcome of an assessment of the impacts – both regarding the environment and the economy of Arctic indigenous and local communities and industries.

Arctic image by NASA

The February meeting of the Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR 6) agreed on the methodology for the impact assessment and now wants such assessments to be provided to PPR 7, which will meet in early 2020. At that stage, a ban may be agreed which would still need to be approved and subsequently adopted by the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC).

Meanwhile, PPR 6 agreed on a definition of HFO consistent with the one for in Regulation 43 of MARPOL Annex I, which bans all carriage of HFO both as fuel and cargo in the Antarctic. It was also agreed that a ban, when developed, should be under MARPOL Annex I but that it should not apply to carrying HFO as cargo, only as fuel.

The HFO definition from PPR 6 is fuel oils having a density at 15ºC higher than 900 kg/m3 or a kinematic viscosity at 50ºC higher than 180 mm2/s.

Discussion were had about how fuel blends complying with the 0.50% sulphur limit may have properties that would allow products containing some residual fuel oil to meet this density/viscosity threshold. If that is a concern, interested parties can make submissions to a future PPR session to adjust the definition.

Unni Einemo

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