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HFO is the dirtiest of all fuel types and, in the event of a spill, is virtually impossible to clean up. It also produces higher levels of air and climate pollutants than other marine fuels.
Faig Abbasov, shipping policy officer at T&E, said: “We welcome the European Parliament's clear call for a ban on the use of the refinery residues by ships in the Arctic. The next meeting of the IMO's environment committee is an important occasion to start formal discussions on addressing the risks related to using heavy fuel oil in the Arctic. Today's vote should be a clear signal for EU member states to put heavy fuel oil on the IMO's agenda in its next meeting.”
Made from the dregs of the oil refining process, HFO is the cheapest but also the dirtiest fuel on the market today. And since it accounts for 75% of fuel used by Arctic-going ships, it puts polar habitats, already fragile, at high risk. Its combustion produces black carbon particles that accelerate ice melting by absorbing more radiation thus warming the atmosphere, as well as reducing the reflection of sunlight by ice back into space.
Burning HFO also emits air pollutants with serious effects on human health. Its use HFO has already been banned from the Antarctic. The IMO should do the same in the Arctic as a matter of urgency.
Dr Sian Prior, lead advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance, said: “Today, the elected representatives of European citizens have delivered a clear message to the International Maritime Organization - it’s time to ban the use of heavy fuel oil from Arctic shipping. By putting a ban in place by 2020, the IMO has an opportunity to reduce both the impact of oil spills and the levels of pollutants which drive the melting of Arctic snow and ice”.