Environment groups are this week pushing for the UN’s International Maritime Organisation to support tough new rules for ships using polar waters.

Environment groups are this week pushing for the UN’s International Maritime Organisation to support tough new rules for ships using polar waters.

A Polar Code for ships operating in polar regions is being discussed at the 57th session of the IMO’s Design & Equipment sub-committee (London, 18-22nd March), where Friends of the Earth International, WWF, Pacific Environment, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Clean Shipping Coalition, of which Seas At Risk is a member, have consultative status.

In their submissions to the sub-committee, these groups are calling for an end to the use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic (it is already banned in the Antarctic), an end to the release of oil from cargo areas and stern tubes, an end to the dumping of untreated sewage and grey water in polar waters and recognition of the importance of reducing black carbon (BC) emissions affecting Polar areas.

Emissions of BC are the second most important climate forcer, after carbon dioxide. As the warming effects of black carbon are due to absorption of solar radiation, the warming induced by black carbon emissions is magnified in ice-covered regions, where the particles are deposited on pristine snow and ice surfaces, decreasing their albedo and thus accelerating the melting of these surfaces.

The maritime sector constitutes an important source of BC emissions especially in remote regions, such as polar waters, which have otherwise low atmospheric concentration of black carbon. This situation will intensify with the opening of new polar sea routes. The increase in BC emissions occurring as a result of the growth in shipping activities could, in turn, increase deposition on fragile ice and snow surfaces that would melt at an accelerated pace.

Discussion on the environment chapter of the Polar Code will continue all week.

The NGO submissions can be found below.