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International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters

“… developed to supplement existing IMO instruments in order to increase the safety of ship’s operation and mitigate the impact on the people and environment in the remote, vulnerable and potentially harsh polar waters.” (Preamble, Paragraph 1)


The retreat of sea ice both in Northern and Southern waters has allowed in-creased traffic in remote areas with lit-tle or no emergency infrastructure e.g. for oil spill response, SAr scenarios, or salvage operations. Many of the sea and coastal areas’ eco systems are par-ticularly vulnerable to damage.  Navi-gation in these areas faces potential hazards like ice and rapidly changing weather.

This is why on the 1st January 2017 the Polar Code entered into force.  The Po-lar Code defines standards for ship’s operations in high latitude areas in two main parts: Part I – Safety Measures and Part II – Pollution Prevention Measures.

The areas covered by the code are de-fined as following: Arctica is north of 60°N but limited by a line from Green-land; south at 58° - north of Iceland, southern shore of Jan Mayen – Bjor-noya – Cap Kanin Nos. Antarctica is south of 60°S.

The code’s safety part applies to all SO-LAS vessels constructed on or after 1 January 2017 which intend to operate within the Arctic and Antarctic areas.

Vessels constructed before this date have to comply with the code’s safety part by the first intermediate or renewal class survey after 1 January 2018.

The code’s environmental part applies to all ships – new and existing - certified under MArPOL  Annexes I, II, IV and V.

Briese Schiffahrt’s inspection depart-ment is currently assessing options to prepare our vessels for navigating un-der the Polar Code. Subjects like addi-tional or special equipment, particular operational standards, crew training, SAr requirements are addressed.

Measures will include a hazard analysis and subsequently a Polar Water Oper-ational Manual. Intact stability calcula-tions have to be amended with allow-ances for icing.

Since our fleet’s individual vessels can be expected to only temporarily operate in polar waters different strategies are fol-lowed: Special systems and equipment are not needed permanently on one ves-sel but can be kept ready for shipment on short notice and installation for a particular voyage on a particular vessel on demand.

Crew training of Masters and their OOWs according to the Polar Code’s requirements, however, will have to be planned well in advance and be undertaken for a certain number of our high latitude seafarers.

Article by Hanns Bergmann

Sources: -  DNV-GL, The Polar Code in Force, Beginning  1 January 2017: How to comply, Technical and  Regulatory News 24/2016 -  IMO, Polar Code – International Code For Ships  Operating In Polar Waters, 2016 Edition -  IMO web site: hottopics/polar/pages/default.aspx

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