Clean Arctic Alliance Welcomes Expedition Cruise Industry Ban on Heavy Fuel Oil

Let's get Heavy Fuel Oil out of the Arctic

London, 14 November 2019:- Responding to the news that the 30 member companies of AECO, the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators, have agreed on a mandatory guideline banning the use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic, Clean Arctic Alliance Lead Advisor Dr Sian Prior said [1]:

“With an International Maritime Organization ban on the use of carriage of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic coming over the horizon, we welcome the decision made by AECO’s 30 expedition cruise companies to get ahead of the crowd, and for forging a path towards powering Arctic shipping with cleaner fuels.”

“That so many shipping and associated companies have recognised the risks associated with HFO, including both oil spill risks and black carbon emissions, by signing up for a ban, sends a strong message to decision-makers in Arctic governments and all International Maritime Organization Member States – who must pay heed. AECO members are demonstrating that not only is it possible to end the use and carriage of HFO in the Arctic, but that the expedition cruise sector is prepared to lead the way. In comparison, the conventional cruise industry still has a long way to go towards getting rid of HFO on board its ships: it should take note, and follow the lead of the expedition cruise industry.”

AECO’s announcement comes ahead of a decision on global action to ban the use and carriage as fuel of HFO by ships operating in the Arctic by the International Maritime Organization (IMO), which is due in February 2020 [2].  

“Amid reports this month that some Arctic islands are 8 degrees warmer than normal, and Scientific American reporting that ‘scientists have been underestimating the pace of climate change, it is particularly welcome that the expedition cruise sector is prepared to demonstrate leadership and take action to reduce the amount of black carbon, a short-lived climate-forcer, being emitted in Arctic latitudes [3][4].

“While we anticipate that a global ban on the use and carriage of HFO as fuel by ships operating in the Arctic will be in place by 2023, it would be wonderful if other shipping operators followed AECO’s lead. The Clean Arctic Alliance launched the Arctic Commitment – a declaration of intent to not use or carry HFO as fuel in the Arctic – with expedition cruise operator Hurtigruten nearly three years ago, and we would welcome Arctic Commitment signatories from other parts of the shipping industry – the container sector, general cargo sector or even the bulk sector,” continued Prior.

AECO was an early signatory of the Arctic Commitment, which calls for a phase-out of polluting heavy fuel oil (HFO) from Arctic shipping. Launched at the Arctic Frontiers conference in January 2017 by the Clean Arctic Alliance and expedition cruise ship operator Hurtigruten (an AECO member), 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 marine fuel by Arctic shipping. An HFO ban has already been in place in Antarctic waters, since 2011 [5].


Dave Walsh, Communications Advisor, Clean Arctic Alliance [email protected], +34 691 826 764



[1] Expedition cruise industry charts course for sustainable Arctic tourism,             November 7th, 2019

[2] 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. (See infographic: Responding to Arctic Shipping Oil Spills: Risks and Challenges).

At MEPC 72 in April 2018, a strongly-worded proposal to ban HFO as shipping fuel from Arctic waters was co-sponsored by Finland, Germany, Iceland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden and the US. The proposal for a ban, along with a proposal to assess the impact of such a ban on Arctic communities from Canada, was supported by Australia, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Ireland, Japan, the League of Arab States, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, and the UK.

At MEPC 73 in October 2018, support came from Austria, Bangladesh, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Spain, Poland and the UK, for the proposal for a ban to be sent to a Pollution Prevention and Response subcommittee (PPR 6, February 18-22, 2019), for development, along with a draft impact assessment methodology for assessing the impact of a HFO ban on Arctic ecosystems, Indigenous local communities and economies to be finalised. At this meeting work commenced on defining what types of fuel will be banned and how they will be banned.

A decision on the proposed HFO ban is due to be made at the next Pollution Prevention and Response subcommittee (PPR 7) which meets from February 17th – 21st 2020.

[3] Barents Observer: Arctic islands 8 degrees warmer than normal

Scientific American: Scientists Have Been Underestimating the Pace of Climate Change

[4] Black carbon (BC), a harmful air pollutant, is the product of incomplete combustion of organic fuels, and contributes from 7-21% of shipping’s climate warming impact. The largest sources of BC are fossil fuel, biomass and biofuel combustion. Ships emit more BC per unit of fuel consumed than other combustion sources due to the quality of the fuel used. BC has human health impacts and is a potent climate forcer. When emitted in the Arctic, black carbon particles fall on snow, on glacier ice and sea ice, reducing their reflectivity (albedo) and increasing the absorption of heat. As multi-season sea ice recedes due to climate change, Arctic waters will open up to increased shipping – which could lead to increased black carbon emissions, fueling an already accelerating feedback loop.

Recognising the threat to the Arctic from black carbon the Arctic Council’s Framework for Action on Enhanced Black Carbon and Methane Emissions Reductions (agreed in Iqaluit in 2015), commits the Arctic countries to demonstrate leadership by reducing Black Carbon (and methane) emissions produced beyond the borders of Arctic States. The Framework for Action includes a commitment to actively work with and within relevant forums and agreements, which includes the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee, to promote actions and decisions that lead to enhanced black carbon and methane emissions reductions.

Heavy fuel oil is 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.

Infographic: How Can We Reduce Black Carbon Emissions From International Shipping?

“Residual fuels such as HFO accounted for an estimated 83% of BC from ships, while ships powered with 2-stroke slow speed diesel main engines were responsible for two-thirds of global BC emissions. Further, just six flag states—Panama, China, Liberia, Marshall Islands, Singapore, and Malta—accounted for more than half of BC emissions.”

Report: Black Carbon Emissions and fuel use in global Shipping

Report: The impacts of an Arctic shipping HFO ban on emissions of Black Carbon

[5] The Arctic Commitment


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


Share this post

Related posts