New ban for ships on use of Heavy Fuel Oil comes into effect in Arctic waters


(MENAFN) A new ban on the use of Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO), the most climate-damaging and polluting fuel for ships, has come into effect in Arctic waters. HFO is a thick, tar-like, and relatively cheap oil widely used in global shipping, particularly by tankers. However, its use is especially harmful in the Arctic, where the black carbon emitted during combustion accelerates the melting of snow and ice. While campaigners welcome the ban, they caution that its immediate impact will be limited due to several loopholes allowing most ships to continue using the fuel until 2029.

HFO, produced from the waste left over in oil refining, poses a significant threat to the oceans, with particularly dire consequences for the Arctic. The sludge-like fuel is nearly impossible to clean up in the event of a spill. Experts warn that in colder waters, the fuel does not break down but instead sinks in lumps that linger in sediments, endangering fragile ecosystems. From a climate perspective, HFO is especially hazardous, not only emitting large quantities of planet-warming gases when burned but also releasing sooty particles known as black carbon.

Dr. Sian Prior from the Clean Arctic Alliance highlighted the severe impact of black carbon in the Arctic. "The black carbon creates a sort of double whammy effect in the Arctic," she said. "It attracts heat while in the atmosphere, and when it settles on snow and ice, it accelerates melting." The use or transport of HFO was banned in the Antarctic in 2011, and environmentalists have long advocated for extending this restriction to northern waters. Their efforts culminated in the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) enacting a ban in 2021.

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