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As the debate over whether the switch to very low sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO) will actually increase shipping’s emissions of ‘Black Carbon’ continues, the environmental lobby group Clean Arctic Alliance has today (27 January) called on the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to ‘support an immediate switch to distillate fuels for ships in the Arctic and develop a global rule prohibiting fuels with high Black Carbon emissions’.

Dr Sian Prior, Lead Advisor to the Clean Arctic Alliance, commented: ‘If immediate action isn’t taken by the International Maritime Organization, the shipping industry’s use of VLSFO – introduced to comply with the 2020 sulphur cap – will lead to a massive increase in Black Carbon emissions, and this will both accelerate the melting of Arctic sea ice and have a major impact on Earth’s climate.’

As previously reported by Bunkerspot, a paper submitted by Germany and Finland to the IMO’s Pollution Prevention and Response (PPR) sub-committee indicated that the new IMO 2020-compliant 0.50% sulphur fuel blends contain high aromatic compound levels, which can directly impact on black carbon (BC) emissions.

The Clean Arctic Alliance said that ‘urgent questions’ need to be answered by the oil and bunkering industries, ‘oil companies must explain how their new “Super Pollutant” shipping fuels ever came to market’ and the IMO must ‘stop new “Super Pollutant” shipping fuels in the Arctic and globally’.

John Maggs, Senior Policy Advisor at Seas at Risk, maintained: ‘There are serious questions to be answered about how these blended super pollutant “Frankenstein” fuels ever came to market. It beggars belief that amidst a global climate crisis, the marine fuel industry could develop these VLSFOs without knowing their effect on Black Carbon emissions and the climate, particularly in the Arctic – especially as the IMO has spent almost a decade considering how to reduce Black Carbon emissions from shipping.’

The Clean Arctic Alliance said that it has written a letter to ‘representatives of the marine fuel industry’ asking the following questions:

  • Were you aware that these new low sulphur heavy fuel blends had higher aromatic content?
  • Were you aware of the link between higher aromatic content in fuels and higher BC emissions?
  • If the answer to the above questions is “yes”, then why did you not immediately seek to halt the production of these fuels and alert the IMO?

‘At next month’s PPR 7 meeting in London, the IMO must support an immediate switch to distillate fuels for ships in the Arctic and agree to develop a global rule prohibiting fuels with high Black Carbon emissions,’ said Prior. ‘In addition, IMO Members must adopt a resolution calling on shipowners, charterers, and fuel providers and other stakeholders to implement these measures on a voluntary basis while new regulations are developed and enter into force.’

GLOBAL: Decarbonisation: the bulk carrier and the fossil fuel conundrum

GLOBAL: VLSFO black carbon emissions could trump those of HFO, says study


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