Reacting to Greenland’s Naalakkersuisut (government) public announcement that is supports an International Maritime Organization ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil by Arctic shipping, Kåre Press-Kristensen, Senior Advisor to the Danish Ecological Council, a member of the Clean Arctic Alliance said:
“We applaud Greenland’s government for speaking up for the much needed protection of the Arctic’s nature and communities, by supporting the banning of the world’s most polluting fuel – heavy fuel oil. After spending time measuring air pollution from cruise ships burning HFO in Greenland this summer, I’m very relieved that Greenlandic politicians support banning it.”
The Greenland government’s statement, published on the Naalakkersuisut’s website says (in translation) that
“Naalakkersuisut has agreed to actively work for a ban on HFO in the Arctic, via the UN International Maritime Organization (IMO). The prohibition must cover both navigation and transport of HFO in the Arctic. Naalakkersuisut’s position on the case has awaited an analysis of the socio-economic, environmental and climate consequences for Greenland of a possible ban on sailing on HFO in the Arctic.”
“The Ministry of Nature and Environment states that the analysis is now available and, on this basis, Naalakkersuisut has decided to support a ban on sailing and transport of HFO in the Arctic. The analysis shows that a ban on sailing on HFO will be associated with a socioeconomic cost of approximately 8.1 million kroner [€1.085 million/ USD$1.268 million] annually.”
“A very important reason for avoiding HFO in Arctic waters is that marine casualties, which lead to waste of HFO in the marine environment, can have major environmental and economic consequences. HFO is very difficult and partly impossible to collect at low sea temperatures. Therefore, in case of major spill of HFO, there is a high risk that the oil will remain in the water for a long time or on the coasts that the oil may endanger.”
In April 2018, the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC72) agreed to move forward on developing of a Arctic ban on heavy fuel oil – which is already banned in Antarctic waters.
After Denmark was one of the countries to back the ban, making it the sixth Arctic nation to do so, Kåre Press-Kristensen had expressed his hope for further collaboration with Greenland in order to gather support for the ban.
MEPC72 directed one of its sub-committees (PPR6) – which will meet in early 2019 – to develop a ban on heavy fuel oil use and carriage for use by ships in the Arctic, “on the basis of an assessment of the impacts” and “on an appropriate timescale”.
Arctic summer sea ice is approximately half the extent it was in the 1970s and half the volume, while the region’s strongest sea ice has broken up twice this year, for the first time on record. The use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic not only increases the risk of devastating oil spills, but it also generates higher emissions of black carbon, which exacerbate the melting of both sea and glacier ice (see below under “About Heavy Fuel Oil”).
Commenting on the Greenland government backing of the HFO ban, Clean Arctic Alliance Lead Advisor Sian Prior said:
“With MEPC73 coming up next month in London, Greenland’s backing of a ban on the world’s dirtiest shipping fuel in the Arctic is a timely encouragement for IMO member state governments to strengthen their commitment to quickly end the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil in Arctic waters. The best thing IMO member states can now do for their domestic shipping industries is to send a clear signal for investment in alternatives to HFO. We’re also calling on shipping companies crossing the Arctic – such as Maersk and COSCO – to show industry leadership and move towards cleaner fuels, and to commit to decarbonised forms of propulsion in the future.”