Canada said to be considering call for Arctic HFO ban

Malcolm Latarche

Malcolm Latarche · 17 February 2020

ShipInsight


Rumours are circulating that Canada will call for a ban on HFO in the Arctic at this weeks PPR7 meeting in London.

So far, discussion on major topics for PPR 7 has focussed on the issue of black carbon and whether 2020 compliant fuels are exacerbating the issue. Following a report on Canadian radio last week, the possibility of Canada adding its voice in calling for a ban has also emerged.

According to Radio Canada International (RCI), Transport Canada officials announced their commitment to a heavy fuel oil (HFO) ban “with certain caveats” during a stakeholder engagement call ahead of the 7th Session of the IMO’s Sub-Committee on Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR7) that begins on Monday, according to at least two participants of the call.

However, the radio station says Transport Canada would neither confirm nor deny the report. “The Government of Canada will publicly announce its position on this issue early next week, once Canada has declared its official position to the international membership of the IMO at the Sub-Committee meeting,” Transport Canada officials told Radio Canada International in an email.

The proposed ban on heavy fuel oil will apply to all ships operating north of 60˚N latitude off the coasts of Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, as well as parts of Nunavik in Northern Quebec.

Internationally it will include waters off Alaska’s coast north of 60˚N latitude, almost the entire Arctic coast of Russia with the exception of waters off Kola Peninsula, Norway’s Svalbard Archipelago, and entire Greenland.

The Canadian submission to PPR7 obtained by RCI says banning HFO in the Arctic would bring environmental benefits but would come at a higher economic cost for northern communities dependent on the marine resupply from southern Canada. However, a search on the IMODOCS site of papers submitted for discussion at the meeting does not reveal such a submission.

Environmentalists are said to welcome the prospect of a ban but RCI quotes local shipping interests that oppose the idea. The announcement by Transport Canada officials that they plan to back the HFO ban drew the ire of Suzanne Paquin, president and CEO of NEAS Group Inc., a Montreal-based shipping company that serves communities in Canada’s Eastern Arctic.

“We are absolutely surprised, disappointed with the government for this,” said Paquin, who was on Wednesday’s teleconference call with Transport Canada officials. “It’s unbelievable that they would think that an HFO ban is a priority in the Arctic… It shows how out of touch the federal government is with the Arctic.”

Paquin said, the company, which is jointly owned by Makivik Corporation, Nunavik’s Inuit Birthright Corporation, and Transport Nanuk Inc., provides sealift operations to all of the Inuit communities in Nunavut and Nunavik.

“Safety is our first concern and we feel that it’s irresponsible to mandate an untested fuel switch,” Paquin said in a phone interview. “This is a huge concern of ours.” The ships owned and operated by NEAS run on HFO, she said. “Not running on HFO will have an impact, especially given cold climate weather, which can have an impact on these engines and that’s what has not been tested,” Paquin said.

Paquin said in more than 30 years of her professional experience related to maritime shipping she has never heard of an HFO spill in the Arctic and accused Ottawa to caving in to a “campaign of misinformation and misguidedness.”

“We support good governance, including listening to the local voices and, of course, we support Canadian testing, research and science before taking any kind of decision,” Paquin said. “This has not been the case. There is absolutely no Canadian data. The Canadian Arctic suffers from a huge data deficit in all domains, including information related to the environment and even climate change.”

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