Arctic ban on heavy fuel oil enacted, though loopholes persist

Arctic ban on heavy fuel oil enacted, though loopholes persist

Despite new ban on HFO in Arctic waters, loopholes will allow most ships to continue using pollutant until 2029, says BBC

By Merve Berker

A ban on heavy fuel oil (HFO) in Arctic waters aimed at reducing climate-damaging emissions and protecting fragile ecosystems has come into effect, but numerous exemptions threaten its immediate impact, the BBC said Monday.

The exemptions may limit its impact until 2029, according to the media outlet.

HFO, a thick, tar-like oil used in shipping, accelerates Arctic ice melt due to the black carbon it emits when burned.

Environmentalists welcome the ban but warn that numerous loopholes will allow most ships to continue using HFO for several more years.

HFO is particularly damaging in the Arctic, where it is nearly impossible to clean up and persists in cold waters, endangering fragile ecosystems.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) agreed to the ban in 2021 following years of advocacy.

However, exemptions include ships with protected fuel tanks and those from Arctic-bordering countries exempting their own vessels.

Russia, with over 800 ships in the region, is not implementing the new rules.

These waivers mean that about 74% of HFO-using ships can continue their operations until 2029.

There are concerns that Arctic oil extraction could increase HFO use rather than decrease it.

Oil and gas tankers, which use large volumes of HFO, are likely to increase their presence in the region, particularly in the Russian Arctic, the BBC quoted Elena Tracy of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) as saying.

Campaigners advocate for alternative fuels and stricter enforcement of the ban.

Norway serves as a positive example, having already imposed a strict HFO ban around the Svalbard archipelago.

An Irish ship was recently fined for violating this ban, highlighting the need for enforcement.

Immediate action is crucial, as scientists predict the first ice-free days in the Arctic could occur as soon as 2030.

"We need urgent action to reduce black carbon emissions and restrict HFO use," said Sian Prior of the Clean Arctic Alliance, according to the BBC.

"Countries and the shipping industry must act swiftly to protect the Arctic," she added.

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