The change was agreed during the 2009 meeting of the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee and is scheduled to come into force in 2011.
In essence it will only allow ships to use only lighter grade oils which, if spilt, evaporate more easily, are easier to clean up and are far less damaging to wildlife.
Light Oil = Less Pollution
The news comes nearly two years after the MS Explorer ran aground in the region, leaking up to 50,000 gallons of diesel oil the oceans.
However the oil was of a light grade, a fact widely acknowledged to have prevented a huge environmental disaster.
Antarctic Expeditions More Costly?
The IMO has already dismissed calls from shipping organisations to delay the ban beyond 2011. However there are fears that political pressure may water down the proposals before they come into force.
Light fuel is more refined and therefore more costly than the heavy fuel usually used by shipping. As the ban covers both the use and the transportation of heavy fuel oil it immediately stops ships taking heavy oil supplies into the Antarctic ocean for use later on.
This means ships sent from northern hemisphere countries to their Antarctic survey teams would have to use light fuel throughout their journey, rather than simply carrying supplies for use in the Antarctic ocean.
This would dramatically increase the costs of such expeditions, a move which is unlikely to be welcomed by major powers such as the USA and Russia.