IMO sets up a Polar Code for increased traffic in Artic and Antarctica waters

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopted the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code), and related amendments to the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) on Friday, November 21. The Polar Code and amendments were adopted during the 94th session of the IMO’s Maritime Safety Commission (MSC), help at the London headquarters from 17-21 November.

As the Arctic region becomes increasingly accessible for shipping, tourism, fishing, and fossil fuel extraction, concerns for marine environment and human safety are growing. There is currently little capacity for search and rescue or environmental clean-up. With more and more vessels plying the Arctic waters, the likelihood of something going wrong in this fragile and extreme environment increases.

The Polar Code contains both safety and environment related provisions. It details all design and construction, equipment, operations, crew training, search and rescue, and environmental protection matters pertinent to ships operating in Arctic and Antarctic waters. Ships will be required to develop a Polar Operations Manual (POM) for each voyage, which will be reviewed and approved within the flag state. Sanctions for violations of the Polar Code have not yet been defined.

The Polar Code and amendments to SOLAS are expected to be ratified by the full IMO in 2015 and enter into force in 2017.


(Image: IMO Secretary-General Sekimizu opening the 94th session of the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), Nov. 17, 2014. Photo credit: IMO on Flickr)