Ocean Currents » international maritime organization http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Mon, 24 Apr 2017 16:58:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 A Commitment to an Arctic Free of Heavy Fuel Oil http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/06/a-commitment-to-an-arctic-free-of-heavy-fuel-oil/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/06/a-commitment-to-an-arctic-free-of-heavy-fuel-oil/#comments Mon, 06 Feb 2017 13:15:33 +0000 Sarah Bobbe http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13719

In a time of uncertainty for people and the environment, I am happy to write that a positive step towards a more sustainable Arctic took place last week at the Arctic Frontiers conference in Tromsø, Norway.

Hurtigruten, a world-leading expedition cruise ship operator, joined international environmental organizations to launch the Arctic Commitment.

The Arctic Commitment asks businesses and organizations to step forward and call for a phase-out of polluting heavy fuel oil (HFO) from Arctic shipping. The Arctic Commitment makes a clear challenge to businesses and organizations to spearhead the protection of Arctic communities and ecosystems from the risks posed by the use of HFO to power ships.

HFO, the most common fuel used by the maritime industry, is also the world’s dirtiest fuel. HFO is the residual product of crude oil that is refined and stripped of more valuable components, leaving concentrated amounts of contaminates like sulfur, ash, vanadium, aluminum, silicon, asphaltenes and more. If spilled, HFO is the most difficult fuel to clean up because it persists in the environment for long periods of time, and is nearly impossible to recover. HFO is also a source of harmful black carbon, which contributes to the rapid warming of the Arctic region. Due to the dangers it poses to the marine environment, its use and carriage have already been banned in Antarctica.

By officially recognizing the threats posed to local communities and to Arctic ecosystems by spills and emissions from HFO, the Arctic Commitment has signalled that further action is critical to safeguarding the environment and wildlife, as well as human health and food security.

Ocean Conservancy will continue to work towards phasing out the use of HFO. We will collaborate with partners to gain more signatures to the important Arctic Commitment.

We will also urge the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the organization that banned HFO use and carriage in the Antarctic, to phase out its use in Arctic waters. Ocean Conservancy is working to ensure that the phase out of HFO use in the Arctic is officially addressed by the IMO at its next Marine Environmental Protection Committee Meeting in July.

Stay tuned for more updates as we work towards keeping Arctic waters free of heavy fuel oil.

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A New Year, a New Set of Rules for Polar Waters http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/01/06/a-new-year-a-new-set-of-rules-for-polar-waters/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/01/06/a-new-year-a-new-set-of-rules-for-polar-waters/#comments Fri, 06 Jan 2017 13:03:31 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13581

It’s 2017, and a suite of new standards and practices are now in place for vessels operating in Arctic and Antarctic waters. The new set of rules—called the Polar Code—is designed to increase ship safety and environmental protection in high-latitude waters. Adopted by a specialized agency of the United Nations called the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Polar Code sets standards for ship safety and for prevention of pollution from international shipping. The Polar Code took effect on January 1 of this year (with a one-year phase in period).

The Polar Code is so important because as sea ice continues to decline, the Arctic Ocean is becoming more accessible to vessel traffic. But as more ships operate in those remote and challenging waters, there are substantial safety and environmental risks—including possible impacts to food security of Arctic indigenous peoples.

The Polar Code includes both mandatory and recommendatory measures intended to mitigate the risk of Arctic shipping. For instance, vessels operating in polar waters must now apply for a Polar Ship certificate, which requires an assessment of the vessel’s suitability for intended operating conditions. The Polar Code also requires voyage planning that, among other things, helps to avoid aggregations of marine mammals and seasonal migration areas. It also bans discharge of oil or oily mixtures and noxious substances, and places relatively strict limitations on discharge of sewage and garbage.

While the Polar Code is unquestionably a major step forward, it does not address all the safety and environmental challenges related to Arctic vessel traffic. For example, use and carriage of heavy fuel oil—the dirtiest and most difficult-to-recover oil if spilled—is banned in Antarctic waters, but the Polar Code still allows vessels to use and carry it in the Arctic. Ocean Conservancy is working with partners to phase out the use of heavy fuel oil in Arctic waters.

The Polar Code does not address the discharge of harmful graywater, imposes no mandatory measures to reduce the threat of invasive species, and does not limit harmful air emissions from vessels traveling in Arctic waters. More broadly, the Polar Code only applies to certain types of vessels that operate in the Arctic, and does not fully address concerns about lack of infrastructure and maritime information in the region. There are also challenges with respect to enforcement of the Polar Code.

As you can see, there’s still plenty of work to do to increase safety and protect Arctic waters from the impacts of shipping. But, I’m optimistic that the Polar Code is a step in the right direction, and a good start to the new year. Ocean Conservancy will continue to work with the IMO and our partners to strengthen the Polar Code and ensure that new regulations protects the ecological heritage of this unique and fragile region at the top of the planet.

 

 

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Saving Lives by Reducing Emissions http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/27/saving-lives-by-reducing-emissions/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/10/27/saving-lives-by-reducing-emissions/#comments Thu, 27 Oct 2016 18:58:09 +0000 Sarah Bobbe http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13199 Arctic scene

Credit: Jupiter Unlimited

Greetings from London! Just hours ago, I was lucky enough to witness the International Maritime Organization (IMO) make a pivotal decision that will drastically decrease harmful sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions from global shipping.

The Marine Environmental Protection committee of the IMO just decided that a 0.5 global sulphur cap on fuels used by the shipping industry will enter into effect in 2020. By decreasing SOx emissions from the shipping industry by 85 percent, more than 200,000 premature deaths from diseases like lung cancer and heart disease will be prevented. The sulphur cap will also significantly decrease the shipping industries’ share of world air pollution.

We will now turn our attention to ensuring implementation and enforcement of these regulations. Tonight, however, we will celebrate this pivotal decision and toast the hundreds of thousands of lives saved by this measure.

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Regulation of Shipping in the Warming Arctic is a Hot Topic http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/04/11/regulation-of-shipping-in-the-warming-arctic-is-a-hot-topic/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/04/11/regulation-of-shipping-in-the-warming-arctic-is-a-hot-topic/#comments Fri, 11 Apr 2014 17:43:00 +0000 Whit Sheard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8040 With 90 percent of the world’s trade being transported across our ocean, it was only a matter of time before the receding sea ice in the Arctic Ocean captured the interest of the shipping industry. Shipping goods through the Northern Sea Route across the Russian Arctic coast, along the fabled Northwest Passage of the Canadian and U.S. Arctic coasts, or straight across the North Pole could save time and money. But at what cost? The Arctic Ocean is far from a safe place for vessels, and the inevitable accidents in this remote and rapidly changing region could devastate the fragile ecosystem. Fortunately, the International Maritime Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations that regulates global shipping, is developing a mandatory ‘Polar Code’ designed to minimize impacts of the anticipated Arctic shipping boom.

Shipping disrupts fish and wildlife, and some of the impacts are magnified by the unique conditions of the Arctic. For example, greenhouse gas emissions contribute to climate disruption, which is disproportionately affecting the Arctic region. Noise pollution disrupts whale migrations around the world, but it is particularly problematic in the Arctic, where bowhead whales migrate through lanes of open water surrounded by ice or ice and land.  These are the exact same lanes that ships will be using, so the noise will be concentrated there. The same logic applies to oil spills, which would be concentrated in important migratory corridors or in nearshore environments, where there are higher concentrations of wildlife. Also, as we’ve discussed here in the past, the Arctic is a remote region with little infrastructure or emergency response equipment.

The new mandatory Polar Code, which will be enforced through amendments to the existing International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) and International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), builds on the existing voluntary Guidelines for Ships Operating in Polar Waters, and is scheduled to be finalized and adopted in 2015. The Polar Code will address a wide range of issues, including ship design, construction, equipment, operation, training, search and rescue and environmental protection. The scope of the new regulations is impressive, especially considering that when Ocean Conservancy staff and our partners began working on the Polar Code in 2010, there were no plans to have a chapter dedicated to the protection of the fragile marine environment.

While we are certainly excited that the 170 member states that make up the International Maritime Organization are committed to addressing the consequences of shipping through Arctic waters, much work remains to be done. Ocean Conservancy and our partners feel strongly that the Polar Code should contain additional provisions, including:

  • A ban on the use of heavy fuel oil, which is more toxic than crude oil and is already banned in Antarctica
  • Measures that reduce black carbon emissions, which may cause up to 25 percent of observed global warming by covering Arctic snow and ice with soot and reducing its ability to reflect heat
  • Expanded applications of the Polar Code to sub-Arctic waters with similarly dangerous ice conditions, lack of response infrastructures and fragile ecologies.

The good news is that the International Maritime Organization is taking the environmental impacts of Arctic shipping very seriously. The October 2014 meetings of the Marine Environment Protection Committee, which is tasked with regulating a variety of environmental issues across the globe, will be preceded by a weeklong session to grapple with these issues and ultimately take us one step closer to a robust Polar Code and a better protected healthy Arctic Ocean. Ocean Conservancy will continue to work to ensure that the final Polar Code protects the ecological heritage of this unique and fragile region at the top of the planet.

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