Copyright © 2019 Senator Dennis Patterson.

Heavy Fuel Oil

June 21, 2017

Honourable senators, larger cargo carrying ships, tankers and cruise ships are increasingly travelling in Arctic waters. These vessels almost always use heavy fuel oil, or HFO, also known as either Bunker B or Bunker C fuel, one the dirtiest and most polluting fuels in the world. According to the World Wildlife Fund:

. . . these large vessels comprise only 28 per cent of vessels, but consume 75 per cent of the total annual fuel used . . .

— in Arctic regions.

In October of 2016, the International Maritime Organization, or IMO, a specialized agency of the United Nations, met in London to discuss various issues. The IMO is responsible for setting global standards regulating the safety, security and environmental performance of international shipping.

Six Arctic indigenous leaders representing Alaska, Canada and Russia attended to participate in the Marine Environment Protection Committee plenary sessions. These six are part of an environmental coalition campaigning for sustainable practices in circumpolar regions and were granted a closed-door meeting with IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim on October 28, 2016.

One of Canada’s representatives, Tagak Curley, the founding president of Canada’s national Inuit organization, ITK, hails from Rankin Inlet, Nunavut. During his private meeting with Secretary General Lim, Tagak spoke about the realities of the North, the reliance on goods brought by sea and the need to protect the environment.

Colleagues, tourism initiatives such as Arctic cruises, which are welcome, are bringing more and more people to experience the beauty and wonder of Canada’s North, while global warming has opened up the Northwest Passage, causing an influx of pleasure and commercial crafts in what was previously a relatively inaccessible region. Additionally, due to Nunavut’s lack of roads or a highway system, Nunavut’s growing population is increasingly dependent on air and marine transportation of goods and services.

All of these factors contribute to much higher marine traffic and it is important that Canada take the precautions necessary to respect the pristine and fragile Arctic environment.

Honourable senators, the IMO’s Marine Environmental Protection Committee is scheduled to meet again July 3 to 7, 2017. During an interview with Radio Canada International, Tagak described Canada as quietly taking stock of other countries’ positions on HFO and not voicing a strong opinion back in October. I recommend that Canada take a strong stance next month and join countries such as Norway, who have protected their coasts by banning HFO in favour of cleaner fuels.


I would urge Canada to consider the views of the people who are directly affected by increased marine traffic, who live on the Arctic coast and are a pillar of Canada’s sovereignty in the Arctic. I would also ask that Canada support the request to have a permanent seat on the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee for indigenous peoples of the Arctic, much like seats created at Arctic Council. As Tagak said:

The Arctic voice is very important. It’s been heard now. It’s not going to stop.