Environmental groups want the eight countries that ring the North Pole to take a stand on banning the use of heavy fuel oil (HFO), considered one of the greatest threats to the Arctic ecosystem, reports Canadian Press.
The use of heavy fuel oil by shipping in the Arctic could have disastrous consequences. Banning this fuel would protect the region’s rich wildlife, improve human health and benefit the climate.
A letter from 15 international environmental groups to the Arctic Council said: "We believe that measures are desperately needed to reduce the environmental impacts from Arctic shipping, and that a logical place to focus attention is vessel fuel quality."
Larger cargo carrying ships, tankers and larger cruise ships almost always use HFO, one of the world’s dirtiest and most polluting ship fuels. In the global Arctic, these large vessels comprise only 28 per cent of vessels, but consume 75 per cent of the total annual fuel used in the region.
HFO – thicker and dirtier than lighter grades – is both shipped as cargo and used as engine fuel. Because it does not evaporate, heavy fuel oil in Arctic conditions would be virtually impossible to clean up. A spill in open water, where arctic birds, fish, and wildlife concentrate, could lead to ecosystem collapse.
For these reasons, HFO was banned in Antarctic waters in 2010. It should be kept out of Arctic waters too.