The Polar Code Article - April 2017

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The Polar Code

The Polar Code

April 2017

April 2017




1 Introduction

Introduction ...






... 2



1.1 Why Why is is the the Code Code requiredrequired? ? 22


1.2 Hazards Hazards of of the the polar polar regions regions 33


1.3 Structure Structure of of the the Code Code 33




1 Introduction

The Internaonal Code for Ships Operang in Polar Waters (Polar Code) entered into force on the 1st January 2017. Designed to ensure safe ship operaon and the protecon of the polar environment, the Code was approved by the IMO between 2014 and 2015 and was made mandatory through separate amendments to the Internaonal Convenon for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the Internaonal Convenon for the Prevenon of Polluon from Ships (MARPOL).

The Code is structured around a goal-based standards (GBS) approach, which facilitates the t ransion from the tradional, prescripve approach of past regulaons, to one that allows for dynamic compliance in response to evolving technology. The Code sets out broad goals on a vari ety of topics including ship design, ship safety, operaons, crewing and the environment. The code applies to the geographic regions dened in the following gures:

 Arcc: Mostly north of 60° but with a liming line from Greenland; south at 58° - north of Iceland, southern shore of Jan Mayen - Bjørnøya – Cap Kanin Nos – courtesy Internaonal Code for Ships Operang in Polar Waters (Polar Code)

1.1 Why is the Code required?

The Code has been developed in response to an increase in t he number of ships operang in the polar regions. This i s due to the following:

• An increasing number of tourists vising the Antarcc and Arcc regions

• global warming, which has led to melng ice caps and, as a result, the creaon of more accessible routes through the polar regions

• newly accessible resources (such as oil and gas) due to melng ice caps(one esmate has stated that 22% of the worlds recoverable hydrocarbons are in the Arcc circle).

These factors pose a serious risk to the polar marime environment because of the polluon and environmental damage that they cause. Furthermore, the remoteness of the region makes it dangerous for seafarers and passengers, especially in the event of an emergency.

 Antarc: South of 60° – courtesy Internaonal Code for Ships Operang in Polar Waters (Polar Code)


1.2 Hazards of the polar regions

The Code sets out hazards specific to the polar regions, which include:

• Ice, as it may aect hull structure, stability characteriscs, machinery systems, navigaon, the outdoor working environments, maintenance and emergency preparedness tasks and malfuncon of safety equipment and systems

• experiencing topside icing, with potenal reducon of stability and equipment funconality 

• low temperature, as it aects the working environment and human performance, maintenance and emergency preparedness tasks, material properes and equipme nt eciency, survival me and performance of safety equipment and systems

• extended periods of darkness or daylight as it may aect navigaon and human performance

• high latude, as it aects navigaon systems, communicaon systems and the quality of ice imagery informaon

• remoteness and possible lack of accurate and complete hydrographic data and informaon, reduced availability of navigaonal  aids and seamarks with increased potenal for groundings compounded by remoteness, limited readily deployable SAR

 facilies, delays in emergency response and limited communicaons capability, with the potenal to aect incident response • potenal lack of ship crew experience in polar operaons, with potenal for human error 

• potenal lack of suitable emergency response equipment 

• rapidly changing and severe weather condions, with the potenal for escalaon of incidents

• the environment with respect to its sensivity to harmful substances and other environmental impacts.

1.3 Structure of the Code

The Code is organised in two parts: Part 1 – Safety measures and Part 2 – Polluon Prevenon measures. These two parts are further subdivided between Part A – Mandatory a nd Part B – Addional guidance

The Safety measures secon applies to ships cered under SOLAS, specically all ships of a size of 500 GT+ and all passenger ships. Ships constructed on or aer 1st January 2017 must now comply with all the safety measures. Ships constructed before 1st January 2017 must comply with the safety measures by their rst intermediate or renewal survey, whichever occurs rst, aer 1st January 2018.

The environmental measures apply to all ships cered under MARPOL Annexes I, II, IV and V respecvely. New and exisng ships cered under MARPOL must now comply with t he environmental requirements since 1st January 2017. Fishing vessels that carry MARPOL cercates will also have to comply with the environmental part of the code, even though they do not need to comply with the safety measures (as they do not possess the cercaon under SOLAS).



1.4 Categories of ships

The Code assigns three categories for ships depending on the operaonal condions that the ship will face:

Category A: a ship designed to operate in polar waters with at least medium rst-year ice (between 0.7 – 1.2m), which may include old ice.

Category B: a ship, not included in Category A, designed to operate in polar waters in at least thin rst year ice (0.3 – 0.7m), which may include old ice.

Category C: a ship designed to operate in open water (dened as sea ice concentraons of less than 1/10) or in ice condions less severe than Category A and B.

The requirements to be met vary according to the ship’s assigned category. For example, a higher standard of ship structure is required for Category A ships than for Category C ships. This also applies to requirements for scantlings and strengthening, subdivision and stability and as residual stability in the event of ice accreon or ice damage.

1.5 Required documentaon

Ships operang in polar waters must now have on board a valid Polar Ship C ercate. This is obtained aer an inial or renewal survey and demonstrates compliance with the requirements of the Polar Code. As well as a successful survey, to issue a

cercate an Administraon will also require:

• A report containing an operaonal assessment of the ship and its equipment. This assessment will include a hazard analysis based on the consideraon of the hazards of the region (see 1.2) and the characteriscs of the operaonal area (e.g. operaon in high latude) and the polar service temperature (PST) established for the vessel

• a Polar Water Operaonal Manual (PWOM). This should address the hazards found in the operaonal assessment and provide sucient informaon as required to meet the measures of the code (see next secon)

• stability calculaons (including a llowances for ice and also in damaged condions)documentaon of machinery, systems and equipment installed or to be installed in order to operate at the established PST.


2 Measures of the Code

The Code has eleven safety measures and four environmental measures for a route to safe polar operaons: 2.1 Safety measures (Part I-A)

Goal Title

Summary of goal and functional requirements

Polar Water Operational Manual (PWOM) – Chapter 2

Polar Water Operaonal Manual (PWOM) – Chapter 2

To provide the owner, operator, master and crew with sucient informaon regarding the ship’s operaonal capabilies and limitaons in order to support their decision-making process.

» Shall include ship-specic capabilies and limitaons » shall include procedures for normal operaon

» shall include procedures for unusual operaons and incidents » shall include procedures for use of icebreaker assistance. Ship Structure – Chapter 3

To provide that the material and scantlings of the structure retain their structural integrity based on global and local response due to environmental loads and condions.

» Materials used in the ship shall be suitable for the operaonal PST

» the structure of the ship shall be designed to resist the loads under the foreseen ice condions. Subdivision and Stability –

Chapter 4

To ensure adequate subdivision and stability in both intact anddamaged condions.

» Ships shall have sucient intact stability subject to ice accreon

» ships of Category A and B (from 01/01/17) shall have sucient residual stability to sustain ice-related


Watertight and Weathertight Integrity – Chapter 5

To provide measures to maintain waterght and weatherght integrity.

» All closing appliances and doors relevant to waterght and weatherght integrity of the shall be operable

(i.e. not frozen closed).

Machinery Installations – Chapter 6

To ensure that, machinery installaons are capable of delivering the required funconality necessary for safe operaon of ships.

» Machinery installaons shall provide funconality under the ancipated environmental condions » ships operang in low air temperatures shall take into account the eects of cold/dense inlet air, the loss

of baery performance and the requirement for materials to be suitable for the ships PST.

Fire Safety/Protection – Chapter 7

To ensure that re safety systems (FSS) and re ghng appliances (FFA) are eecve and operable, and that means of escape remain available so that persons on board can safely and swily escape to the lifeboat and lifera embarkaon deck under the expected environmental condions.

» All components of the FSS and FFA, including access shall be protected from ice accreon and snow


» equipment and controls arranged to be accessible, while avoiding freezing, snow accumulaon and ice


» the design of the FSS and FFA shall take into account persons will be wearing bulky cold weather gear » exnguishing media to be suitable for operaon

» ships operang in low air temperatures shall ensure that all components are eecve and the materials


Life-Saving Appliances and Arrangements – Chapter 8

To provide for safe escape, evacuaon and survival.

» Escape routes, embarkaon arrangements and muster points should be accessible and safe (taking into

account the adverse weather expected during an emergency) to allow safe evacuaon

» adequate thermal protecon shall be provided for all persons on board and to be suitable for the PST and



Goal Title

Summary of goal and functional requirements

Communication – Chapter 10

To provide for eecve communicaon for ships and survival cra during normal operaon and in emergency situaons.

» 2-way communicaon shall be provided for all points along the route, with a suitable means of

communicaons also available when escort and convoy operaons are expected

» means for 2 way on-scene and SAR co-ordinaon communicaons

» appropriate communicaon to enable telemedical assistance in polar areas shall be provided

» all rescue boats and lifeboats for evacuaon shall maintain capability for distress alerng, locaon and

on-scene communicaons

» all other survival cra shall maintain capability for transming signals for locaon and for communicaon » survival cra communicaons shall be capable of operaon during the maximum expected me of rescue. Voyage Planning – Chapter 11

To ensure that the Company, master and crew are provided with sucient informaon to enable operaons to be conducted with due consideraon to safety of ship and persons on board and, as appropriate, environmental protecon.

» The voyage plan shall take into account all the potenal hazards of the intended route. Manning and Training - Chapter 12

To ensure that ships operang in polar waters are appropriately manned by adequately qualied, trained and experienced personnel.

» Masters, chief mates and ocers in charge of a navigaonal watch on board ships operang in polar

waters shall have completed training appropriate to their dues and responsibilies, taking into account the provisions of the STCW Convenon and Code (this essenally requires undertaking a Basic, and if required Advanced STCW approved training course). Note that the requirements for meeng the goal of appropriate manning and training were updated with amendments agreed at MSC 97 in 2016. These amendments to the ‘Internaonal Convenon on Standards of Training, Cercaon and Watchkeeping for Seafarers’ (STCW) and the STCW Code will enter into force on the 1st January 2018.




Prevention of pollution by oil – Chapter 1

In Polar waters, any discharge into the sea of oil or oily mixtures from any ship shall be prohibited.

» Arcc waters are now added to the oil prohibited special areas; Antarcc waters were already in MARPOL so

now all discharges into Polar waters are prohibited (i.e. no use of the 15ppm OWS)

» operaons in polar waters shall be taken into account in the Oil Record books, SOPEP and manuals » for all new ships built since 1st January 2017 with an aggregate oil fuel capacity of less than 600 m3 there

should be adequate separaon of the fuel and oil residue (sludge/oily bilge) tanks from the outer shell (not less than 0.76m)

» for all new category, A and B tankers built since 1st January 2017, the enre cargo length shall be protected

with double boom tanks or spaces and the wing spaces arranged in according with regulaon 19.

Control of pollution by noxious liquid substances in bulk – Chapter 2

In Polar waters, any discharge into the sea of noxious liquid substances (NLS), or mixtures containing such substances, shall be prohibited.

» Arcc waters are now added to the NLS prohibited special areas; Antarcc waters were already in MARPOL so

now all discharges into Polar waters are prohibited

» operaons in polar waters shall be taken into account in the Cargo Record Book, SMPEP and the P&A Manual. Prevention of pollution by

sewage from ships – Chapter 4

In Polar waters, discharge of sewage is prohibited except under certain condions in accordance with MARPOL Annex IV:

» Comminuted and disinfected sewage can only be discharged at more than 3 naucal miles away from ice areas » untreated sewage must be discharged at a distance of more than 12 naucal miles away from ice areas

» for all new cargo ships of Category A and B and all passenger ships built since 1st January 2017 all discharges of

untreated sewage are prohibited. New ships may only discharge sewage if comminuted and disinfected using their onboard approved sewage treatment plant.

Prevention of pollution by sewage from ships – Chapter 5

In Polar waters, discharge of garbage is only permied in accordance with regulaon 4 of MARPOL Annex V:

» discharge into the sea of food wastes is only permied when the ship is as far as praccable from areas of ice

concentraon exceeding 1/10 and must be not less than 12 naucal miles from the nearest ice or land

» food wastes shall be comminuted or ground and they shall not be discharged onto the ice

» operaons in polar waters shall be taken into account in the Garbage Record Book, Garbage Management Plan

and ship placards.

[Abridged informaon from MEPC 68/21/Add.1, Annex 10, Internaonal Code for Ships Operang in Polar Waters (Polar Code)]

2.2 Polluon Prevenon Measures (Part II-A)

These are slightly more prescripve than the goals and funconal requirements of the safety secon. The structure follows MARPOL and consists of both operaonal requirements and structural requirements:



3 Impact of the Code and future developments

Exisng ships operang in polar regions are likely to already be in compliance with the Code and they sll have unl their rst intermediate or renewal survey (whichever comes rst) aer 1st January 2018 to comply fully. However, the documentaon requirements, in parcular the need for a valid Polar Ship Cercate, PWOM and the other funconal requirements may well require changes to exisng ship operators in the region.

The Code will likely impact most heavily on new ships, or companies intending to operate in polar regions for the rst me. While the principles of navigaon in ice for a ship remain much the same, the operaonal, structural and equipment requirements on the ship have been signicantly altered since the entry into force of the Code.

However, as the Code has only recently entered into force, further amendments ,which will impact ship owners and managers and seafarers working in the polar regions, are likely. For example, MEPC 71 in July 2017 will consider the need among other environmental measures, for a HFO prohibion the polar regions.

To account for the evolving nature of the Code, classicaon sociees and P&I Clubs have begun to issue their own guidance documents on a the Code and many ag State administraons are reviewing their own regulaons and on the requirements for ship approval.

Although the Polar Code will likely be subject to further developments, as a mandatory par t of SOLAS and MARPOL all ships operang in the polar regions must now begin to comply wit h its requirements. The Code is an important rst step in protecng the polar environment from polluon and ensuring the safety of ships sailing in the region.


4 Further Reading


• Introducon - hp:// • Text of the Code - hp://

• STCW amendments - hp:// and hp://

Classicaon Sociees and P&I Clubs • ABS - hp:// • DNV - hp:// • LR - hp://

• UK P&I Club - hp://

Harry Harris

Technical Advisor

Marine Compliance & Regulations





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