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Arctic Shipping Rules Address Pollution, not Ballast Water

Arctic shippingThe latest sign that warming temperatures are creating economic opportunities in the Arctic: the International Maritime Organization is close to agreeing new shipping rules for the region.

Nations are discussing the Polar Code, a set of pollution rules and safety improvements that could go into force by 2016, Reuters reports.

Summer sea ice in the Arctic has shrunk by about two-thirds over the past three decades, revealing new routes that could dramatically reduce shipping times. In September, a bulk carrier loaded with 73,500 tons of coking coal from Canadian miner Teck Resources completed the first major commercial voyage through the Northwest Passage, a once-impassable route.

Melting ice is also increasing opportunities for drillers: an estimated one-third of undiscovered gas and one-tenth of undiscovered oil lie under Arctic waters.

The Polar Code has its limitations, however. It will not address ballast water discharge, and would allow vessels to use heavy fuel oil, which poses a contamination risk in case of an accident, Reuters notes.

Takeaway: Proposed rules seek to regulate the new shipping opportunities in the Arctic, though they won’t address all of shipping’s potential environmental effects.

Tamar Wilner is Senior Editor at Environmental Leader PRO.

Picture credit: International Maritime Organization

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