Canada looks to delay Finnish proposal to ban dirty fuels in the Arctic

Ottawa is reportedly trying to water down a plan by Finland for an outright ban of heavy fuel oil used by ships plying the Arctic.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is set to discuss the issue of heavy fuel oils (HFO) used in the Arctic at the 72nd session of its Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), which convenes in London in 10 days’ time.

The use of HFOs is already banned in the Antarctic and several environmental and indigenous groups are calling for a similar ban in the Arctic.

“A ban is the simplest and most effective mechanism for mitigating the consequences of a spill and reducing harmful emissions,” said Sian Prior, lead advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance, a coalition of international NGOs campaigning for a mandatory HFO ban.

Documents obtained by Radio Canada International show that as part of the discussion of the Canadian proposal, which was adopted at MEPC’s last session in in July last year, Finland has submitted a plan to ban the use and carriage of HFOs by ships in Arctic waters by 2021.

Finland’s proposed ban is co-sponsored by Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the United States.

“A single HFO spill could have devastating and lasting effects on fragile Arctic marine and coastal environments,” the Finnish proposal says. “In addition, Arctic shipping is projected to continue to rise, thus increasing the risk of a spill. For these reasons, the ban on HFO should be implemented as soon as possible, and any delay in implementation of the HFO ban by eligible ships should be short-lived.”

However, in a document submitted by Canada and the Marshall Islands in response to the Finnish proposal, Ottawa has argued against rushing to an outright ban too quickly, suggesting instead that the committee should also take into account the potential adverse economic impact of increased shipping costs on northern indigenous communities that depend on maritime resupply for most of their goods.

Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
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