Clean Arctic Alliance Comment on Viking Sky and Heavy Fuel Oil

Let's get Heavy Fuel Oil out of the Arctic

March 25, 2019:- Responding to news that the cruise ship Viking Sky, owned by Viking Cruises, had reached safe harbour in Molde, Norway, Dr Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance said:

“With a new season of cruise ships poised to enter Arctic waters, the Viking Sky crisis should serve as a wake-up call. Several factors helped avert disaster and ensured the safe return of passengers and crew to shore this weekend: the response and resolve of the Viking Sky’s crew, who restarted its engines under difficult conditions, the bravery and expertise of Norwegian helicopter teams and the crews of support vessels operating in difficult conditions to rescue Viking Sky passengers and the crew of the freighter Hagland Captain, along with the experience and resources of Norway’s authorities, and very importantly, the proximity of rescue infrastructure.”

“According to reports, the Norwegian Coastal Administration (Kystverket) has said that the Viking Sky was reported to be carrying 343 tonnes of HFO on board, along with 465 tonnes of diesel [1]. The Viking Sky was in distress close to the Norwegian coast; the grounding of the vessels created a strong risk of a oil spill, which would have been devastating for the environment and local communities.”

“This summer, similar cruise ships carrying thousands of passengers will sail in Arctic waters and in other vulnerable regions, far from search and rescue facilities, including helicopters and tugs. It is not only the lives of the passengers and crew at stake, but also those involved in the response and rescue – which in remote Arctic locations is likely to include Indigenous and coastal communities with minimal or no equipment and training. In addition to the risk to lives, most of these vessels will be powered by oil-based fuels including heavy fuel oil (HFO), which pose a grave risk to the Arctic environment, and to the livelihoods of local Indigenous people. A spill of HFO is likely to take from months to years to be completely cleaned-up.”

“Norway has strongly backed the ending of HFO use and carriage in Arctic waters at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), and has banned its use in national park waters around the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard [2]. With work on a ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil from Arctic shipping currently under development by the IMO, now is the time for Arctic Cruise industry players to come clean on the fuels they are using, move away from HFO, and to sign up to the Arctic Commitment, which calls on businesses and organisations to step forward and call for a phase-out of polluting HFO from Arctic shipping.”



[1] Uvanlig med total blackout – flere teorier om årsaken (Unusual total blackout – more theories about the cause),, 25 March 2019.

[2] Svalbard, Heavy Fuel Oil Ban

Further reading:

March 2019: Comment: As the Solomon Trader Disaster Shows, 30 Years after Exxon Valdez, Nowhere is Safe from Oil Spills – including the Arctic

March 2019: Carnival Corporation makes bombshell claim to only use cleaner fuel on cruise ships in Arctic

Feb 2019: Clean Arctic Alliance Hails Progress on Heavy Fuel Oil Ban But Warns Arctic Nations To Remain Focussed


Dave Walsh, Communications Advisor, HFO-Free Arctic Campaign, [email protected], +34 691 826 764

About Heavy Fuel Oil

Heavy fuel oil is a dirty and polluting fossil fuel that powers ships throughout our seas and oceans – accounting for 80% of marine fuel used worldwide. Around 75% of marine fuel currently carried in the Arctic is HFO; over half by vessels flagged to non-Arctic states – countries that have little if any connection to the Arctic.

The Arctic is under pressure – climate change is fuelling temperature rises double the rate of further south. As sea ice melts and opens up Arctic waters further, even larger non-Arctic state-flagged vessels running on HFO are likely to divert to Arctic waters in search of shorter journey times. This, combined with an increase in Arctic state-flagged vessels targeting previously non-accessible resources, will greatly increase the risks of HFO spills.

Already banned in Antarctic waters, if HFO is spilled in cold polar waters, it breaks down slowly, proving almost impossible to clean up. A HFO spill would have long-term devastating effects on Arctic Indigenous communities, livelihoods and the marine ecosystems they depend upon. HFO is also a greater source of harmful emissions of air pollutants, such as sulphur oxide, and particulate matter, including black carbon, than alternative fuels such as distillate fuel and liquefied natural gas (LNG). When emitted and deposited on Arctic snow or ice, the climate warming effect of black carbon is up to five times more than when emitted at lower latitudes, such as in the tropics (see infographic: Responding to Arctic Shipping Oil Spills: Risks and Challenges).

The Arctic Commitment

130 shipping companies, cruise operators, ports, businesses, explorers, non-governmental organizations and politicians have put their name to the Arctic Commitment, an ambitious civil society initiative calling for ban on heavy fuel oil (HFO) from Arctic shipping, since its launch in Tromsø in January 2017.

Conceived by the Clean Arctic Alliance and expedition cruise ship operator Hurtigruten, the Arctic Commitment aims to protect Arctic communities and ecosystems from the

risks posed by the use of heavy fuel oil, and calls on the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to ban its use and carriage as fuel by Arctic shipping.

To read the Arctic Commitment text and view the list of signatories, including IKEA, German and Icelandic ports, Lindblad Expeditions, UNEP Patron of the Oceans and polar swimmer Lewis Pugh, please visit the Arctic Commitment webpage.

About the Clean Arctic Alliance

The following not-for-profit organisations form the Clean Arctic Alliance, which is committed to a ban on HFO as marine fuel in the Arctic:

Alaska Wilderness League, Bellona, Clean Air Task Force, Danish Ecological Council, Ecology and Development Foundation ECODES, Environmental Investigation Agency, European Climate Foundation, Friends of the Earth US, Greenpeace, Iceland Nature Conservation Association, Nature And Biodiversity Conservation Union, Ocean Conservancy, Pacific Environment, Seas At Risk, Surfrider Foundation Europe, Stand.Earth, Transport & Environment and WWF.

More more information visit


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