The Polar Code, or more precisely, the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters entered into force on Jan. 1, 2017, marking an important milestone in global efforts to protect the polar ecosystems as well as the ships, crews, and maritime passengers transiting defined waters surrounding the poles.
According to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), the mandatory Polar Code “sets out mandatory standards that cover the full range of design, construction, equipment, operational, training and environmental protection matters that apply to ships operating in the inhospitable waters surrounding the two poles.”
Summarized in the IMO’s helpful infographic, the Polar Code specifies goals and functional requirements related to ship structure; stability and subdivision; watertight and weathertight integrity; life-saving appliances and apparatus, safety of navigation, communications, manning and training, pollution prevention, among others.
The safety provisions of the Polar Code are immediately applicable to ships constructed after Jan. 1, 2017. Ships constructed before this date are required to comply with relevant provisions of the code by the first intermediate or renewal survey of the vessel, whichever occurs first, after Jan. 1, 2018. All ships operating in polar waters, regardless of date of construction, are now required to comply with pollution prevention measures specified in the Code.
The vast challenges and opportunities associated with Arctic and cold water operations were the subject of a Marine Technology and the North Symposium jointly hosted by Verrill Dana’s North Atlantic and Arctic practice group and the Marine and Oceanographic Technology Network (MOTN), coincident with the plenary meeting Senior Arctic Officials (SAO) recently convened in Portland, Maine. A précis of the Symposium and links to presentation materials can be accessed at our recent post Looking North: A Watershed Moment in Arctic Awareness.
The changes Arctic sea ice extent present new shipping opportunities via the northern sea routes, and potential economic and business opportunities for New England states situated near the eastern terminus of the Northwest Passage. The economic and cultural impacts associated with the changing conditions in the Arctic are the subject of recent reporting by Henry Gass in The Christian Science Monitor in his article, “Maine looks north, hoping to become a gateway to the Arctic.”