Arctic states outlined ways to reduce the risks of using fuel oil during navigation in the Arctic
During the 71st session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee at the International Maritime Organization (IMO) headquarters in London, the Canadian delegation suggested initiating rapid resolution of a problem concerning the use of fuel oil in the Arctic. All Arctic states (USA, Russia, Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark) as well as some non-Arctic countries supported this proposal. WWF presented exhaustive arguments confirming the extremely high risks of oil spills in the Arctic.
Fuel oil (or ship residual fuel) is still actively used in the Arctic. In a number of countries, it is up to 75% of all used fuel. Due to the growing traffic intensity in the region, the risks of oil spills are increasing, which are particularly damaging to the marine flora and fauna of the Arctic, and also to the ecosystem as a whole. According to WWF estimates, it is virtually impossible to eliminate oil spill accident these days due to the lack of efficient technologies and inaccessibility of the region to provide the workforces and means for the response, as well as the lack of infrastructure. For the same reasons the use of fuel oil is already prohibited in the Antarctic.
During the session of the committee, the representatives of indigenous peoples of the North and environmental organizations of a number of Arctic countries, including the head of the WWF Russia program on the environmental policy of fuel and energy sector, Alexei Knizhnikov, met with the Secretary General of the International Maritime Organization. The main topics of discussion at this meeting were the issues of reducing risks from the use of fuel oil in the Arctic. The Secretary General of IMO confirmed that the issues of reducing the threat of using fuel oil will be a priority for the organization.
WWF expects that this is the first step towards a complete stop of the use of fuel oil in the Arctic. Specific proposals will be considered by the Marine Environment Protection Committee in April 2018.
As an alternative fuel oil for bunkering of Arctic vessels, WWF Russia suggests using liquefied natural gas (LNG). This will completely eliminate one of the sources of accidental oil spills.
"It is very important that the WWF Russia initiative to switch fuel for Arctic vessels to LNG receives broader support both in our country and abroad", says Alexei Knizhnikov. “Henceforth, last week the head of “Sovcomflot” Sergey Frank announced a decision in the framework of the Year of the Environment to transfer all ships of the company operating in the Arctic to LNG fuel. This way, our largest shipping company shows in practice that the use of LNG for bunkering in the Arctic is possible from both economic and technical point of view".