9/29/2016: Recap of listening session – Heavy fuel oil in the Arctic

Written by Melissa Perera, Coast Guard Office of Operating and Environmental Standards

On Sept. 27, 2016, the U.S. Coast Guard held a very successful and informative public listening session in Washington D.C. on the topic of heavy fuel oil (HFO) use by ships in the Arctic.

The event was held in the Department of Transportation building where Mr. Paul “Chip” Jaenichen, Sr., Maritime Administrator for the U.S. Maritime Administration, welcomed participants. Mr. Jeff Lantz, director of Commercial Regulations and Standards at U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters, and also head of U.S. Delegation to the IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee and Marine Environment Protection Committee led the listening session. Participating stakeholders included representatives from the State of Alaska, various Native Alaskan Tribal organizations, several city Mayors from northern Alaska, the maritime industry, environmental non-governmental groups (NGOs), representatives from the Committee on the Marine Transportation System (CMTS) and multiple Federal agencies including the U.S. Coast Guard, Maritime Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and Department of State.

As the lead agency representing the U.S. at the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the Coast Guard has been leading an interagency group examining the risks of HFO use in the Arctic with a goal of developing sustainable mitigation strategies which can be taken to the IMO. This work has included multiple work sessions among the Federal interagency, discussions at Arctic Council’s Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME), and at the IMO.

The goals of the listening session were to exchange information relating to:

1) Environmental risks to Arctic waters posed by HFO use by ships;
2) Potential measures that could be taken to reduce those risks to Arctic waters; and
3) The development, sustainment and economics of communities that would be directly affected by such measures, particularly remote indigenous populations and business interests vital to remote population centers.

Several short presentations were given and then a robust discussion ensued. Topics covered ranged from the risks of an HFO spill and its potential effects on Arctic ecosystems, actual amounts of HFO being used as fuel by ships in the Arctic, the potential effect of vessel traffic on subsistence hunting and food security, potential mitigations measures that could be applied to reduce risks posed by HFO, and the effects that a potential ban of HFO in the Arctic might have on remote communities’ ability to affordably receive essential goods.

Mr. Jeff Lantz summarized the session stating, “This was a very successful and informative discussion with broad representation. Our goal through this work is to identify the issues and possible options to address the effects of use and carriage for use of HFO by ships in the Arctic with the intention of bringing them forward for consideration and discussion at a future session of the Marine Environmental Protection Committee at IMO.”

Presentations and any other comments, data or information relevant to this discussion will be posted to the docket at the Federal eRulemaking Portal under docket number USCG-2016-0886, and will be available for review.

Additional material may be posted to the docket until November 25, 2016, or sent directly to the U.S. Coast Guard by e-mailing Melissa.E.Perera@uscg.mil. Please note that all materials sent to the U.S. Coast Guard will be placed on the docket and that all contact information given will become public.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.

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