ICCT report points to ‘loopholes’ in IMO’s proposed Arctic HFO ban

The report’s co-author, Bryan Comer, notes that ‘We found that the IMO’s proposed heavy fuel oil (HFO) ban contains so many loopholes that’s it’s no ban at all.’

The International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) proposed Arctic heavy fuel oil (HFO) ban contains so many waivers and exemptions that 84% of HFO use would still be allowed to continue until 2029, says a new report from the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT).

The IMO is scheduled to finalise the scope of the Arctic HFO ban at the 75th session of its Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) in November. The ban would start to take effect in July 2024, but waivers and exemptions included in the draft text would allow some vessels to continue using and carrying HFO until July 2029.

Ahead of this, the ICCT has conducted a study looking at the impact on HFO use and carriage and the extent of black carbon emissions in a number of scenarios, ranging from an outright ban on HFO use and carriage to the IMO’s proposed ban as it currently stands with its waivers and exemptions.

According to the ICCT’s analysis, under the IMO’s current proposal, 84% of HFO consumptions would be permitted until 2029, 70% of fuel oil carriage, and black carbon emissions would be at 95% of current levels.

In order to assess the impact of the waivers and exemptions, the ICCT estimated how much HFO carriage and use, and black carbon emissions would have been eliminated if the ban had been in place in 2019.

The analysis assumed that all ships eligible for exemptions and waivers would use them and that ships would not reflag or change their routes to take advantage of the waivers close.

The report also flags up that HFO use in the Arctic is still on the rise – growing 75% between 2015 and 2019.

‘As newer ships enter the Arctic fleet, especially oil tankers and bulk carriers, more ships will qualify for exemptions,’ notes the ICCT.

According to one of the report’s authors, senior researcher Bryan Comer, HFO use by bulk carriers rose by 70% between 2015 and 2019, but its use by oil tankers escalated by over 300% over that timeframe.

In the run up to the MEPC meeting in November, the ICCT is calling on policymaker to ‘consider how the proposal could be modified to ban a larger share of HFO carriage and use.’

The ICCT’s Bryan Comer noted that: ‘In short, we found that the IMO’s proposed HFO ban contains so many loopholes that’s it’s no ban at all.’

Lesley Bankes-Hughes

Lesley Bankes-Hughes