In a move that signals Russia’s desire to continue using and transporting heavy fuel oil (HFO) in the Arctic until a mandatory ban comes into effect for all vessels in mid-2029, the country informed the International Maritime Organization (IMO) that it is opting out of voluntary restrictions on HFO which are set to begin in mid-2024.
Russia informed the IMO last month that “the amendments as adopted by the Resolution MEPC.329(76) will not enter into force for the Russian Federation on the 1st of November, 2022”. Canada similarly notified the IMO that it will not be acceding to the protocol, until it has had a chance to finalize the adoption of the treaty.
Under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) a ban on the use and carriage of HFO had been discussed in the IMO for more than a decade until it was agreed upon in 2021. The ban will take effect for non-Arctic flagged vessels in 2024.
However, due to resistance for a total ban by Russia, vessels flying the flag of an Arctic state were granted a 5-year grace period until they also have to comply by mid-2029. Double-hulled vessels, which are deemed safer, are also exempt until 2029.
HFO remains in Arctic until end of decade
HFO is the dirtiest type of marine fuel and, in case of a spill, poses substantial risk to the Arctic Ocean’s sensitive ecosystem.
This type of fuel also produces high levels of black carbon, or soot, which when it settles on snowy surfaces across the region contributes disproportionately to ice melt. It is also near-impossible to clean up, especially in colder environments or waters, where it becomes thick and viscous.
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