Canada moves to dilute Finnish bid to ban dirty fuels from the Arctic

Canada moves to dilute Finnish bid to ban dirty fuels from the Arctic
From CBC - March 20, 2018

As the world maritime body prepares to consider a Canadian proposal to mitigate the risks of heavy fuel oil pollution in the Arctic, Ottawa is trying to water down a plan by Finland for an outright ban of the highly polluting fuelused by most ships plying the rapidly warming Arctic.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO), the United Nations' agency regulating maritime shipping, will discuss the issue of heavy fuel oils (HFO) in the Arctic at the upcoming72ndsession of its Marine Environment Protection Committee(MEPC)in London in early April.

The use of HFOs is already banned in the Antarctic. 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 adviser to the Clean Arctic Alliance, a coalition of international NGOs campaigning for a mandatory HFO ban.

Ban HFO by 2021, says Finland

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

Finland's proposed banwhich would be mandatory for all ships operating under the International Convention for Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL)is co-sponsored by Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and 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."

Not so fast, says Canada

In a document submitted by Canada and the Marshall Islands in response to the Finnish proposal, Ottawa argues against rushing to an outright ban too quickly.

While agreeing that "the threat of an accidental oil spill in Arctic waters remains the most significant threat from ships to the Arctic marine environment," Ottawa urges the IMO to consider "economic and other impacts to Arctic communities associated with the restriction or phase-out of heavy fuel in Arctic waters."

Officials at Transport Canada declined to comment on Canada's position.

Andrew Dumbrille, a World Wildlife Fund Canada specialist in sustainable shipping, said it looks like the Trudeau government is signalling that it needs more time.

"My reading of it, and talking to some officials, is that Canada is still in favour of this moving forward and needs time to consult with stakeholders before committing to a full-on ban on the timeline that's been suggested by the Finland paper," he said.

Dirty and cheap

Heavy fuel oil (HFO), also known as bunker oil, is the cheapest, the dirtiest and most common type of fuel used in maritime shipping, Dumbrille said.

According to areport by the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT), the thick, viscous fuel oil produces high amounts of soot, particulate matter and black carbon.

Threat to Inuit livelihoods

A costly proposition


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