Polar Code may be applied to smaller Arctic vessels

“We are well aware of the increased number of fishing vessels and pleasure yachts”

By Nunatsiaq News - June 18, 2019
A cargo ship sails through multi-year ice in the Northwest Passages. (Timothy Keane / Fednav)

At a recent Arctic Council shipping forum in London, the International Marine Organization said it’s looking at expanding the Polar Code to smaller vessels.

“The entry into force of the Polar Code marked only the first phase of our effort to protect the pristine Arctic and Antarctic environments,” said IMO Secretary-General Kitack Lim to the recent Arctic Council shipping forum, held in London in early June.

The IMO, a United Nations agency responsible for the safety and security of shipping and the prevention of marine pollution, is now putting attention on vessels that fall outside its mandatory regulatory regime, due to their size, Kim said.

In 2017, more than 20 smaller vessels and yachts transited the Northwest Passage, according to online sources. Apparently, none made it through the ice-choked waters last summer.

“We are well aware of the increased number of fishing vessels and pleasure yachts sailing in polar waters that do not fall under the provisions of the Polar Code,” Kim said.

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The IMO was recently approved as an Arctic Council observer.

That will further strengthen the two organization’s efforts in support of sustainable Arctic shipping, Kim said.

“From Theory to Practice” was the overall theme of the forum, which included presentations on implementing the Polar Code, with a focus on successes, impediments, and remaining challenges, a news release from the Arctic Council said.

Those at the forum also looked at a new website, which offers a one-stop, online source of information to support safe and environmentally sound Arctic shipping.

The website, accessible at www.arcticshippingforum.is, provides links to what shippers need to know about the implementation of and compliance with the Polar Code.

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For example, on the website, shippers can find links are available on the hydrographic, meteorological, and ice data information needed to plan for navigation in the Arctic.

Arctic States, intergovernmental organizations, classification societies, the shipping industry, marine insurers, and non-governmental organizations regularly contribute information to the website, the release said.