Arctic Council states must lead on strengthening Arctic shipping rules | WWF

Arctic Council states must lead on strengthening Arctic shipping rules

Posted on 17 October 2014    
Shipping in the Arctic is already increasing. It brings with it the possibility of more jobs, but also potential dangers. The Northwest Passage route (over the top of Canada) would save two weeks in travelling time versus the Panama Canal, while the Northern Sea Route (over the top of Russia) is considered an even better bet in terms of its navigability. Although the routes will not be open year round, companies are already investing billions of dollars in tankers capable of going through ice.
© WWF / Bryan Alexander/www.arcticphoto.com
Arctic states and Arctic Council observer states must step up at their meeting next week to address the shortfall in Arctic shipping rules. The states should show their determination to act as a group in strengthening the Polar Code, rules being negotiated for polar shipping. A negotiating session on the Code ends today in London.

“The Code still needs a lot of work,” says WWF shipping expert Simon Walmsley. “While the negotiations made progress on some issues, they have so far failed to address other pressing matters such as a ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic.”

Heavy fuel oil is currently used to fuel ships operating in the Arctic and is transported for onshore usage, accidents can result in very polluting spills devastating local environments. The use and carriage of heavy fuel oil is already banned in the Antarctic, but not in the Arctic. Tens of thousands of tonnes of heavy fuel oil have been spilled from a single ship in previous accidents.

Other current omissions from the code include:
  • The environmental and climatic impact of ship air pollution including black carbon emissions is not addressed
  • The prevention of the introduction of non-native/invasive species through ballast water discharges and hull fouling is not addressed in a specific polar context
  • The impact on marine animals of underwater noise is not addressed
“Ensuring that the omitted issues are addressed in the future development of the Polar Code should be a priority for the Arctic Council,” says Clive Tesar of WWF’s Global Arctic Programme. “Of course having better environmental rules is good for the Arctic states and the Indigenous peoples’ organizations. This is also an opportunity for Arctic Council observer states that are also world shipping leaders to step up and show that they are serious when they talk about protection of the Arctic environment.”

WWF expects that the Council will take the opportunity presented by a Senior Arctic Officials meeting next week in Yellowknife to discuss an effective response to the Polar Code shortcomings.

For more information:

Clive Tesar, Head of Communications and External Relations, WWF Global Arctic Programme
Mobile: +1 613 883 3110 email: ctesar@wwfcanada.org

Dr. Simon Walmsley, Marine Manager, WWF International
swalmsley@wwf.org.uk, 07920 023 318

Web: panda.org/arctic

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Shipping in the Arctic is already increasing. It brings with it the possibility of more jobs, but also potential dangers. The Northwest Passage route (over the top of Canada) would save two weeks in travelling time versus the Panama Canal, while the Northern Sea Route (over the top of Russia) is considered an even better bet in terms of its navigability. Although the routes will not be open year round, companies are already investing billions of dollars in tankers capable of going through ice.
© WWF / Bryan Alexander/www.arcticphoto.com Enlarge

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