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There are mainly two different types of excluded areas in respect to ice trade, those that are subject to seasonal exclusions and those that are excluded all year round. The latter areas are close to the Arctic or Antarctic regions, whilst the seasonal exclusions are typically ice-related ar-eas such as the St Lawrence Seaway and the Baltic.

The permanent excluded ar-eas also include areas where information on the charts is poor and inadequate for a safe navigation. In addition, weather conditions may be extremely severe in certain seasons and the risk of ice and icebergs may be imminent.

There are, however, typical routes where icebergs or growlers are found, for example the great circle route from Northern Eu-rope to the Northern part of the East Coast of North America.

Today navigators get warnings from the Canadian Authorities as almost all icebergs are tracked.

Ice is known to be an ex-treme hazard to ships, too many ships are not fitted for navigation in ice and even if they are, the risk of damage is high.

Past experience has shown that ice damage is directly related to the severity of the winter, the ice created and the condition of the ship, including the skill of the officers.

The Finnish and Swedish icebreaking authorities set up rules during the winter season in relation to the severity of the ice, which vessels they will “allow”, i.e. they will assist in the Baltic.

These rules are implemented when ice is getting thick, limiting ships of a certain size and with a minimum ice-class. The rules are made on the basis of experience, to stop ships that cannot safely trade in the prevailing ice conditions. A ship not fulfilling the minimum requirements will not get assistance (unless in the case of saving lives in an emergency).

A number of shipowners in particular in Sweden, Finland, Rus-sia and Canada, have built ships reinforced against ice. These ships are built to withstand the forces of ice better than others and to be used during the winter season in, for example, the Baltic. Ice classes vary and the highest ice class is Swedish Finnish 1A Super. Even ships with this high ice class may have difficulties in a severe winter and may be stopped by the ice.

Furthermore, the icebreakers may face difficulties and it hap-pens, although not too often, that an icebreaker gets stuck in the ice.

Navigating in ice is an enormous exposure for a ship and without an ice-class it is not recommended to get into waters that may form ice. Even with icebreaker assistance, the hazards are nu-merous. The owners will also face long delays very often as well as a loss of earnings due to these damages, which could be avoided if navigation in ice is avoided. It is not only the vessel and its construction. Success also depends on the skill of the navigators. Officers with long experience of navigating in ice can avoid situations that put the ship in danger. It is not easy for the untrained eye to spot the small but important variations in the ice, for example cracks developing, which would make it easier and safer to navigate. The drift of ice,setting the v essel off track – just try to imagine a totally white, snowy, flat landscape without any fixed points for reference. Another point to note is the ability to work in low temperatures, for which the crew needs good protective clothing. The ship has to have very good heating system or, as has been experienced, the only warm spot in accommodation often turns out to be the refrigerator.

It is of utmost importance that the following items will be followed at any time:

  • It is not allowed to enter the ice without holding ice class!

In case of need contact the Inspection Department to discuss the further proceeding • Do NOT work astern in the ice! Put your rudder always amid-ships! • If you are alongside the berth with thick ice do not manoeu-vre because ice could be either under the vessels bottom or on the ground; in case of such circumstances ask for tug as-sistance • Your draught should always within the ice belt of your vessel to avoid ice damages • In case you got stuck in the ice please inform all vessels in vicinity to avoid collisions and call for ice breaker assistance.

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