Photo: Tim Grams
As Arctic ice continues to recede due to climate change, shipping in the Arctic is only increasing, with billions of tons of cargo moving through the region every year.
The International Maritime Organization's (IMO) Polar Code, while addressing some environmental concerns, does not account for the immense threat to the Arctic's wildlife
posed by shipping and heavy fuel oil (HFO).
The Arctic’s dramatic and unpredictable weather and changing sea ice conditions make vessel transits of any sort a serious risk. The Arctic Council’s Arctic
Marine Shipping Assessment stated that: ”The most significant threat from ships to the Arctic marine environment is the release of oil through accidental or illegal
discharge.” A spill of any kind in the Arctic should be avoided at all costs. But with the added danger of HFO on board, every ship in the region becomes a potential
This type of oil, markedly more harmful to the environment than distillate marine fuel, has already been banned in Antarctic waters. The black carbon created by burning
heavy fuel oils is well documented to hasten the already warming climate in the region. As you are aware, the Arctic Council has already created a task force directed to
find ways of reducing black carbon emissions in the Arctic. HFO is also more difficult to clean up than distillate fuel, even in ideal environments, because it sinks below
the water's surface. And it has proven to persist in the water for weeks after a spill. Yet countless ships both burn and carry this fuel through the Arctic every year,
even with reasonable alternatives readily available, such as distillate fuels and liquefied natural gas.
Permitting of non-ice-class ships must also be addressed. With the risks involved in sailing the Arctic, no matter the type of fuel on board, it is a threat to human
safety and the environment to allow any non-ice-class ships to traverse the Arctic. I am concerned that the language currently in the Polar Code still permits many ships
not built for Arctic conditions to travel through the region, raising the risk of a dangerous accident, as well as that of a fuel spill.
I ask you to urge the IMO to ban heavy fuel oil use for shipping in or near Arctic waters, and include this provision in the Polar Code. I further ask that you include
specific guidelines in the Polar Code to prevent non-ice-class ships from traveling Arctic waters. We must reduce the risk of an oil spill in this region, the consequences
of which could be devastating to its people, landscape and wildlife.
Dear Arctic Council Secretariat,
Thank you for your consideration.[Your Name] [Your Address] [City, State ZIP]
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