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Clean Arctic Alliance Welcomes MSC Decision to Avoid Arctic Shipping Route

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Clean Arctic Alliance Welcomes MSC Decision to Avoid Arctic Shipping Route

London, Monday, October 21, 2019:- Responding to the announcement that shipping company MSC “will not explore or use the Northern Sea Route between Europe and Asia for container shipping” and that it believes that shipping lines should focus on reducing the environmental impact of existing shipping trade routes”, Clean Arctic Alliance lead advisor Dr Sian Prior said [1]:

The Clean Arctic Alliance welcomes MSC’s decision to avoid using the Northern Sea Route to ship goods between Asia and Europe. While MSC have understandably come under fire for their environmental record elsewhere, we note that some shipping companies appear to be thinking about the bigger picture, by recognising how a ‘surge in container shipping traffic in the Arctic’ could have a detrimental impact on the environment.” [2]

“It is too early to tell whether this is the beginning of a new trend in the shipping industry. In recent weeks we have seen shipping company Oldendorff Carriers claiming the environmental benefits of using the Northern Sea Route, while some companies, such as COSCO and Maersk, are clearly expanding their operations in the Arctic. However, MSC’s announcement demonstrates that some shipping companies appear to be taking their environmental responsibilities seriously.”

“The Clean Arctic Alliance believes that current environmental protection regulation is not adequate to address the risks of international shipping operating in Arctic waters. As a first step, we are calling for an International Maritime Organization ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil (HFO) in Arctic waters and the introduction of measures to reduce black carbon emissions by switching to distillate fuels. Any decision by industry which reduces the risks to the Arctic, including by choosing to not use Arctic sea routes, is to be welcomed.”

“While using the Northern Sea Route has long been touted as a faster, or lower cost option for shipping companies, with consequential lower carbon emissions, there is clearly an emerging realisation that the risks of a heavy fuel oil spill or the impact of increased black carbon emissions in the Arctic, and the consequences on our climate and global environment are unacceptable. The Clean Arctic Alliance hopes that the decision adopted by MSC – and others, like Hapag-Lloyd and CMA CGM – will send a clear message to the shipping industry that it is necessary to support environmentally responsible decision-making when making decisions about future routes and operations.”

When the IPCC press conference to launch the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC) was released on September 25th, its Summary for Policymakers included recognition that shipping activity in the Arctic has increased over the past two decades, and highlights the need for urgent action to ensure that environmental regulation keeps pace with the increasing interest in Arctic shipping routes [3].

“The IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate makes clear that an International Maritime Organization ban on the world’s dirtiest fuel – heavy fuel oil – is imperative if we are to diminish the risks to the Arctic environment from increased shipping,” said Prior. “According to the IPCC, if we can reduce our emissions and keep global warming to 1.5 degrees or under, we will only see an ice-free Arctic in the month of September – when the sea ice minimum occurs – possibly only once in a hundred years.”

“Clearly, the shipping industry must act now to play its part in keeping below 1.5 degrees: ending the use of heavy fuel oil in the Arctic to reduce black carbon emissions is one clear step towards achieving this. ‘There is an urgent need to act and to act at scale, and to take action across all elements of society – and that includes the maritime sector.”


[1] MSC rules out Arctic exploration on environmental concerns


Major shipping companies Hapag-Lloyd and MSC Step Away From Arctic Shipping


Hapag-Lloyd Ships Will Not Use Arctic Sea Routes


[2] MSC’s environmental travails: MSC Pays $630,000 in Penalties for California Air Quality Violations


Wetlands International: Open letter to the Mediterranean Shipping Company from conservation organisations: Where is the compensation for pollution of the Wadden Sea?


MSC Zoe: Islands hit as 270 containers fall off ship


(MSC) Cruise ship crashes into tourist boat in Venice, injuring five people


[3] September 2019: IPCC SROCC: NGOs Call for heavy fuel oil ban to cut Arctic shipping emissionshttps://www.hfofreearctic.org/en/2019/09/25/ipcc-srocc-ngos-call-for-heavy-fuel-oil-ban-to-cut-arctic-shipping-emissions/


Further reading:

August 2019: Clean Arctic Alliance Asks COSCO to Come Clean On Arctic Fuel Choice


June 2019, High North News: Chinese Shipping Company COSCO To Send Record Number of Ships Through Arctic


September 2018: Clean Arctic Alliance Asks COSCO to Speak Up On Arctic Fuel Choice


August 2018: Clean Arctic Alliance challenges Maersk on Arctic Shipping Fuel


August 2018: Clean Arctic Alliance challenges Canada’s Fednav on Arctic Shipping Fuel


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