The use and carriage of heavy fuel oil (HFO) poses many risks to the Arctic environment, including damage from oil spills and emissions of black carbon, a potent climate pollutant. Recent discussions at the International Maritime Organization’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) provide an opportunity to examine the potential risks and hazards associated with HFO use and carriage in the Arctic. MEPC’s 70th session, held in October 2016, will consider two topics that may greatly reduce the amount of HFO used in the Arctic: a global marine fuel sulfur cap of 0.5% (currently it is 3.5%), and whether or not HFO use in the Arctic should be formally placed on the MEPC agenda.
This paper provides key information needed to evaluate the potential risks HFO has to the Arctic environment. It presents the number of ships operating on HFO, the amount of HFO carried, and the distance this fuel is carried within both the IMO Arctic and the Arctic area of the United States’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in 2015.