The Polar Code

shutterstock 29795515The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shippingIndeed, the safety of ships operating in the harsh, remote and vulnerable polar areas and the protection of the pristine environments around the two poles have always been a matter of concern for IMO and many relevant requirements, provisions and recommendations have been developed over the years.

‚ÄčIMO has adopted the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code) and related amendments to make it mandatory under both the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). The Polar Code entered into force on 1 January 2017. This marks an historic milestone in the Organization’s work to protect ships and people aboard them, both seafarers and passengers, in the harsh environment of the waters surrounding the two poles.

The Polar Code (click for full text) is intended to cover the full range of shipping-related matters relevant to navigation in waters surrounding the two poles – ship design, construction and equipment; operational and training concerns; search and rescue; and, equally important, the protection of the unique environment and eco-systems of the polar regions.

polar codeApplication
Only vessels that intend to operate within the Arctic and Antarctic areas as defined in the Polar Code need to comply with the code. The areas are as follows (also see map on the right):
  • Arctic: In general north of 60° N but limited by a line from Greenland; south at 58° - north of Iceland, southern shore of Jan Mayen - Bjørnøya – Cap Kanin Nos.
  • Antarctic: South of 60° S.
The safety part of the Polar Code applies to ships certified under SOLAS, i.e. cargo ships of 500 GT or more, and to all passenger ships.

Ships constructed on or after 1 January 2017 shall comply with the safety part of Polar Code at delivery.

Ships constructed before 1 January 2017 shall comply with the safety part of the Polar Code by the first intermediate or renewal survey, whichever occurs first, after 1 January 2018.

The environmental part of the Polar Code applies to all ships certified under MARPOL Annexes I, II, IV and V respectively. Existing and new ships certified under MARPOL shall comply with the environmental requirements by 1 January 2017. This means that fishing vessels (that carry MARPOL certificates) will also have to comply with the environmental part of the code, although not carrying any SOLAS certificates.

Text from DNV.

shutterstock 35295883PAME and the Polar Code
In 2009, PAME released the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA) which recommended that the Arctic States cooperatively support efforts at the IMO to augment global ship safety and pollution prevention conventions with specific Arctic requirements. This recommendation was further complemented by Arctic Council Ministers issuing a declaration “encourag[ing] active cooperation within the [IMO] on development of relevant measures to reduce the environmental impacts of shipping in Arctic waters.” More recent Arctic Council Declarations, including the Iqaluit Declaration (2015) and the Fairbanks Declaration (2017), contain similar calls for closer collaboration between the Arctic Council and the IMO on issues of Arctic shipping remains.Since 2012, the PAME has consistently encouraged the timely implementation of the Polar Code, and now that the Code is in force, encourages Arctic and Observers States to continue to work towards a harmonized and effective implementation. Complementing these calls to action, PAME is also developing a Polar Code information brochure, and has created the Arctic Shipping Best Practices Information Forum to assist with implementation of the Polar Code.

The Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum
PAME's establishment of the Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum is in response to the Polar Code. The aim of the Forum is to raise awareness of its provisions amongst all those involved in or potentially affected by Arctic marine operations and to facilitate the exchange of information and best practices between the Forum members on specific shipping topics, including but not limited to; hydrography, search and rescue logistics, industry guidelines and ship equipment, systems and structure. A publicly accessible web-portal will be created with information specific to each topic.

More on the Forum here.

IMG 1371International Conference on Harmonized implementation of the Polar Code
The Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Traf)i organised together with PAME an international Polar Code conference as part of Finland’s Chairmanship programme in February 2018. At this conference, the Arctic Council member states, seafarers and industry representatives shared their experiences of Polar Code implementation during the first year of its enhancement. The conference website is available here.

Session I Introduction, session moderated by Dr. Anita Mäkinen (Finnish Transport Safety Agency)
IMG 1378Session II Challenges of the Implementation of the Polar Code for Administrations, session moderated by Dr. Anita Mäkinen (Finnish Transport Safety Agency)

Session III Challenges of the Implementation of the Polar Code for Seafarers, session moderated by Rob Hindley (Aker Arctic Technology Inc)

Session IV Identified challenges and future solutions, session moderated by Rob Hindley (Aker Arctic Technology Inc)

IMO in the polar environment: the Polar Code explained

Infographics from IMO:

How the Polar Code protects the environment English infographic

Polar Code Ship Safety Infographic smaller