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The International Maritime Organization’s Polar Code on the protection of polar waters, which comes into force in 2017, says “ships are encouraged not to use or carry heavy fuel oil in the Arctic.” However, following a meeting of its environmental protection committee in late October, which included hearing from Arctic Indigenous representatives from Russia, the United Stations, and Canada, the IMO plans to begin phasing out heavy fuel oil in the Arctic.

This oil is used by almost half the ships operating in the Arctic. Much of the soot generated from exhaust from slow-burning heavy ship fuel oil and other sources has a powerful impact in the Arctic. The black particles soak up and magnify heat and are believed to be responsible for at least 30 per cent of warming in the Arctic. A heavy fuel oil spill in the Arctic could cause long-term damage to the environment. Research has shown that reducing soot emissions could cool down the Arctic faster and more economically than any other solution.

Under the IMO new requirements, ships of 5,000 gross tonnage and above will have to collect consumption data for each type of fuel oil they use, as well as other data. This will help inform the IMO’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from ships.

The International Maritime Organization is the United Nations agency responsible for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution.