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IMO approves draft amendments to prohibit the use of HFO by ships in Arctic waters

23 November 2020

The IMO Marine Environment Protection Committee, in its 75th session (MEPC 75) held virtually on 16-20 November 2020, approved draft amendments to MARPOL Annex I (addition of a new regulation 43A) to introduce a prohibition on the use and carriage for use as fuel of heavy fuel oil (HFO) by ships in Arctic waters. The draft amendments are scheduled for adoption at MEPC 76 scheduled for June 2021.

The prohibition would cover the use and carriage for use as fuel of oils having a density at 15°C higher than 900 kg/m3 or a kinematic viscosity at 50°C higher than 180 mm2/s. The HFO prohibition would become effective from 1 July 2024, however, a number of exceptions and waivers would apply:

These exemptions have been criticized by NGOs and other groups that have been campaigning to ban HFO from Arctic shipping. The Clean Arctic Alliance called the MEPC amendments a “ban ridden with loopholes (...) that would leave the Arctic, its Indigenous communities and its wildlife facing the risk of a HFO spill for another decade”.

Currently, a MARPOL regulation adopted in 2011 prohibits the use or carriage of heavy grade oils on ships in the Antarctic waters. However, commercial shipping in the Antarctic is rather limited, while the use of HFO in the Arctic has been steeply increasing. According to an analysis by the ICCT, HFO use in the Arctic grew 75% between 2015 and 2019.

MEPC 76 also discussed a number of other issues, including:

Source: IMO