Stricter Regulations on Marine Fuel Proposed

overfishing iceland

The Ministry for the Environment and Natural Resources has published an amended draft to the current regulations on the Sulphur content of liquid fuels. RÚV reports that if these amendments are adopted, the use of heavy fuel oil (HFO) would be prohibited within Icelandic territorial waters starting at the beginning of next year.

Heavy Fuel Oil is “the generic term [that] describes fuels used to generate motion and/or fuels to generate heat that have a particularly high viscosity and density.” HFOs “are mainly used as marine fuel, and HFO is the most widely used marine fuel at this time; virtually all medium and low-speed marine diesel engines are designed for heavy fuel oil.”

About 22% of the marine fuel sold in Iceland in 2016 was HFO; it is used by some Icelandic fishing vessels. There has been a great deal of discussion regarding the pollution from cruise ships, which run on HFO, and according to current Icelandic law, the use of such fuel is prohibited when a cruise ship is docked at an Icelandic port.

The current law, which went into effect in 2015, allows for the Sulphur content in marine fuel used within Icelandic territorial waters to be up to 3.5%. If the amendments go into effect, this percentage would go down to .1%. This is lower than the updated Sulphur pollution regulations that are outlined in the revised International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships agreement, or MARPOL Annex VI. Per the revised regulations, which go into effect on January 1, 2020, cosignatories to the agreement, including Iceland, will not be allowed to use marine fuel that has a Sulphur content that is higher than .5%.

If Iceland puts a stricter Sulphur content limit in place, ships using a higher percentage fuel would need to employ approved methods of reducing their Sulphur Dioxide emissions while within Icelandic territorial waters. A .1% Sulphur limit would, however, be in accordance with restrictions already in place in the so-called ECA areas in the Baltic and North Seas.

Sulphur Smell by Sólheimajökull Glacier

Sólheimajökull glacier

A strong sulphur smell has been noticed in the vicinity of Sólheimajökull glacier in South Iceland, the Icelandic Met Office reports. No significant changes have been observed in hydrological, gas, or seismic data in the area.

Still weather in the coming days means any gases caused by geothermal activity can accumulate in higher concentrations. Individuals in the region are encouraged not to remain in low-lying areas where gas tends to accumulate and avoid proximity to Jökulsá á Sólheimasandur river.

Route 1 Partially Closed Due to Skaftá Glacial Flood

Route 1, west of Kirkjubæjarklaustur, has been closed due to flooding from the glacial outburst flood in Skaftá river, Vísir reports. The police in South Iceland have reported this, and the Icelandic Met Office issued a general travel advisory on June 3rd.

Ágúst Freyr Bjartmarsson, a foreman at the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, said the water is now too deep for cars to pass through, but that it cannot be said for sure when water levels will regress.

A bypass route through Meðallandsvegur is open, which is expected to slow down travellers by around 40 to 60 minutes in total.

The glacial outburst flood has already reached a high point, and it is expected that it will now slowly regress, according to the Icelandic Met Office. The effects of the flood will still be felt in the next days, and it is expected that Skaftá will not experience regular water flow until later in the week.

The fact that both cauldrons of the glacier Skaftárjökull have flooded at the same time is an historical event, as up to this point only one cauldron at a time has activated, Vísir reports.

A sulphur stench has been reported in the region, but the smell can be felt quite far away. The were reports of sulphur in the air in Norway the last time a glacial outburst flood in Skaftá happened, in 2015.

Travellers are advised to visit the website of the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration for further information,, or reach them by telephone in the number 1777.