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The anticipated growth in polar traffic for a variety of shipping sectors presents a number of challenges to ship operators, not least of which is safety.
Ships navigating the remote waters of the Arctic and Antarctic face some unique risks.
Poor weather conditions can compound the relative lack of good charts, communication systems and navigational aids.
Search and rescue or environmental clean-up operations can be extremely difficult and, as a result, potentially very costly. Ship’s machinery and equipment can be compromised by the cold temperatures and harsh weather systems in addition to the additional loads imposed on the hull and propulsion by polar ice fields.
This section of our website collates Club advice and that drawn from a variety of other industry and government agencies and organisations to offer a practical starting point for Members who may trade to these regions.
The latest briefing from the legal team covers the Antarctic Treaty and its Environment Protocol. Annex VI of the Environment Protocol, which deals with liabilities arising from environmental emergencies, has not yet come into force, but shipowners trading to the Antarctic should be aware of their potential liabilities under this instrument.
The Northern Sea Route (NSR) runs along the Russian coast from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Kara, Laptev, East Siberian, and Chukchi Seas, has the potential to significantly shorten voyage times between European and Far Eastern ports. The Club has compiled an FAQ which focuses on the implications for P&I insurance of choosing to use the Northern Sea Route.
General industry resources
International Maritime Organisation
IMO is currently developing a draft International code of safety for ships operating in polar waters (Polar Code), which would cover the full range of design, construction, equipment, operational, training, search and rescue and environmental protection matters relevant to ships operating in the inhospitable waters surrounding the two poles.
IMO Maritime Safety Committee & Polar Shipping Safety:
The International Tanker Owners Pollution Federation (ITOPF)
ITOPF's March newsletter, which reports on ITOPF activities and spill related issues has an article on responding to Arctic spills.
BIMCOBIMCO hosts a variety of commercial resources in its “Ice” section, including a variety of Ice Clauses, ice authority regulations as well as updates from regions of the world affected by ice. Membership of BIMCO and a registration with its online services is required to access the information in this section. If you don’t have a membership and/or registration then apply here.
LMA – Navigating Limits Subcommittee
The Club does not provide a navigating limit on its cover, although other exclusions may affect polar shipping operations e.g. need for appropriate ice navigation class for ships or the exclusion of imprudent voyages. However, hull and machinery cover does usually carry such restrictions and the London Market Association’ Navigating Limits Subcommittee maintains an excellent website with many resources that guide owners on the restrictions relating to polar and other restricted waters, including regular updates on incidents as well as local environmental conditions.
Arctic Regional Hydrographic Commission
At present, less than 10 per cent of Arctic waters are charted to modern standards. The Arctic Coastal States represented by their Hydrographic Offices, have recognized the need for enhanced collaboration and coordination of their Arctic activities. A regional commission of the International Hydrographic Organisation this organisation comprises the following member states - Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russian Federation, United States – as well as two observers – Finland & Iceland.
National resources & advisories
The demarcation and jurisdiction of Arctic waters remains subject to some uncertainty. This could impact the regulations and liability regimes affecting ships trading in this area. A conference between the Arctic coastal states was held in 2008 leading to a declaration on dealing with territory disputes, a number of which are still ongoing.
Transport Canada – Arctic Shipping: This subsection of the marine safety section of Transport Canada’s website is the best start point for Canadian Arctic shipping resources including the “Guidelines for the Operation of Passenger Vessels in Canadian Arctic Waters” and “Pollution Prevention Guidelines for the Operation of Cruise Ships under Canadian Jurisdiction”
Transport Canada- Arctic Ice Regime Shipping System:
Canadian Coast Guard - Ice Navigation in Canadian Waters: This link provides the latest Coast Guard publication in both html and PDF formats.
Arctic Council – Canada Resources Page:
Denmark / Greenland
Arctic Council – Denmark/Greenland Resources Page:
Polar View - European Arctic Node:
Arctic Council – Norway Resources Page:
Northern Sea Route Administration: Federation institute to deal with applications and issuing permissions for navigation through the Northern sea route; issuing certificates for ice pilotage; organization of search and rescue operations in the marine area; and other general and meteorological information
Arctic Council - Russian Federation Resources Page:
United States Arctic Research Commission: An independent agency that advises the US President and Congress on domestic and international Arctic research including updates on related Congressional hearings, legislative action, news etc.
United States Government Accountability Office: A new report issued by the U.S. Government Accountability Office suggests there's no benefit to developing shipping infrastructure in the Arctic.
The organization serves as a watchdog for federal spending, and says deep-water ports, mapping and other infrastructure improvements will only go so far in attracting more ships.
Arctic Council – United States Resources Page:
Miscellaneous documents & advisories
The International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (“the Polar Code”) was adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) on15th May 2015. The Code will take effect on 1 January 2017, upon entry into force of the new Chapter XIV of the SOLAS Convention. The Code will apply to new ships constructed after 1 January 2017. Ships constructed before 1 January 2017 will be required to meet the relevant requirements of the Polar Code by the first intermediate or renewal survey, whichever occurs first, after 1 January 2018.
IMO has adopted the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code) which is expected to enter into force on the 1st January 2017. This marks an historic milestone in the protection of ships and both seafarers and passengers, in the harsh environment of the waters surrounding the two poles.
As reported changes to the world’s climate appear to be increasing the accessibility of the Arctic to international shipping, this ICS position paper is intended to establish some key principles with respect to the governance of maritime activity in the Arctic and the regulation of ships navigating Arctic waters.
An extensive review of the legal and regulatory arrangements that will affect shipping in the Arctic region whether national or 'internal' waters or in areas of international waters.
The main purpose of this Study is to examine the international legal regime that applies to the Arctic marine area in terms of shipping and related activities. The Study provides an overview of the international law of the sea, its main features and maritime zones in the context of the Arctic marine area; discusses the international legal regime for the regulation of marine shipping; analyzes the national laws and regulations of the coastal Arctic States (Canada, Greenland (Denmark), Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation and the United States of America); and draws conclusions and examines options for multilateral reform and consultation.
On May 10, 2013, the President issued the National Strategy for the Arctic Region (Strategy). The accompanying Implementation Plan1 sets forth the methodology, process, and approach for executing the Strategy. This Implementation Plan complements and builds upon existing initiatives by Federal, State, local, and tribal authorities, the private sector, and international partners, and focuses efforts where opportunities exist and action is most needed. The Implementation Plan reflects the reality of a changing Arctic environment and upholds national interests in safety, security, and environmental protection, and works with international partners to pursue global objectives of addressing climatic changes.
The paper begins with a summary of federal efforts in three topic areas: (1) spill demarcation and mitigation, including containment and countermeasures; (2) oil spill response technologies for cleanup and recovery of oil, including affiliated data management tools; and (3) the fate of oil and its effects on the environment.
Arctic Council – http://www.arctic-council.org/index.php/en/
Arctic Institute of North America (University of Calgary) - http://www.arctic.ucalgary.ca
Canadian Polar Commission - http://www.polarcom.gc.ca/eng
Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency - http://www.cannor.gc.ca/eng/1351104567432/1351104589057
Conference Board of Canada - http://www.conferenceboard.ca
Inuit Circumpolar Conference – http://www.inuit.org
National Snow and Ice Data Center (U.S.) – http://nsidc.org
United States Arctic Research Commission (USARC) - http://www.arctic.gov
Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs (U.S.) - http://www.state.gov/e/oes/ocns/opa/
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (U.S.) - http://www.noaa.gov
Northern Sea Route Information Office (Russia) - http://www.arctic-lio.com/nsr_nsra
Documents - Legal and Administrative re Arctic Navigation
A. United Nations
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea - Part XII - Marine Environment: http://www.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/part12.htm
B. Arctic Council
Declaration on the Establishment of the Arctic Council (Ottawa Declaration 1996): http://www.arctic-council.org/index.php/en/document-archive/category/4-founding-documents?download=118:the-ottawa-declaration
Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009 Report: http://www.pame.is/index.php/projects/arctic-marine-shipping/amsa
C. Transport Canada
Checklist for Vessels Navigating in Canadian Arctic Waters: https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/debs-arctic-checklist-117.htm
Acts and Regulations: https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/debs-arctic-acts-regulations-menu-2272.htm
In particular: Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. A-12: http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/A-12.pdf
Arctic Shipping Pollution Prevention Regulations, C.R.C., c. 353: laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/C.R.C.,_c._353.pdf
Arctic Pollution Prevention Regulations, C.R.C., c. 354: http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/C.R.C.,_c._354.pdf
Arctic Shipping: https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/debs-arctic-menu-303.htm
(Arctic) Shipping Operations: https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/debs-arctic-shipping-operations-menu-119.htm
Arctic Ice Regime Shipping System (AIRSS): https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/debs-arctic-acts-regulations-airss-291.htm
Arctic Ice Regime Shipping System (AIRSS) Standards: https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/tp-tp12259-menu-605.htm
Arctic Ice Regime Shipping Pictorial Guide: https://www.tc.gc.ca/media/documents/marinesafety/tp14044e_airss_guide.pdf
Zone/Date System (Z/DS): https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/debs-arctic-acts-regulations-zds-1824.htm
National Aerial Surveillance Program: https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/oep-ers-nasp-2195.htm
National Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Regime: https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/oep-ers-regime-menu-1780.htm
Spill Response Procedures: https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/oep-ers-regime-procedures-507.htm
Arctic Waters Oil Transfer Guidelines: https://www.tc.gc.ca/media/documents/marinesafety/tp10783e.pdf
Shipping and the Environment: https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/debs-arctic-environment-shipping-enviro-92.htm
Guidelines for the Operation of Passenger Vessels in Canadian Arctic Waters (2005): https://www.tc.gc.ca/eng/marinesafety/tp-tp13670-menu-2315.htm
See also IMO Guidelines on Voyage Planning for Passenger Ships Operating in Remote Areas (IMO Resolution A 999(25), adopted Nov 29, 2007)
D. Canadian Coast Guard
Ice Navigation in Canadian Waters (2013): http://www.ccg-gcc.gc.ca/folios/00913/docs/ice-navigation-dans-les-galces-eng.pdf
Vessel Traffic Reporting Arctic Canada Traffic Zone (NORDREG): http://www.ccg-gcc.gc.ca/eng/MCTS/Vtr_Arctic_Canada
Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services Zones Regulations (SOR/2010-127): http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/SOR-2010-127.pdf
and related Shipping Safety Control Zones Order (C.R.C., c. 356): http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/C.R.C.,_c._356.pdf
Ship Station (Radio) Regulations, 1999 (SOR/2000-2600 (sect. 15 re the Navigation in the Arctic): http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/SOR-2000-260.pdf
III. Other documents of interest
A. European Union
The European Union and the Arctic region. Communication from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council
(COM(2008) 763 final) – http://library.arcticportal.org/1697/1/eu_commission.pdf
The EU and the Arctic - European Foreign Policy in the Making - http://www.arctis-search.com/The+EU+and+the+Arctic%3A+European+foreign+policy+in+the+making&structure=Arctic+Policies+and+Governance
Canada’s Northern Strategy (2009) - http://www.northernstrategy.gc.ca/cns/cns.pdf.
Review of Offshore Drilling in the Canadian Arctic (Dec. 2011) – National Energy Board – http://www.neb-one.gc.ca/clf-nsi/rthnb/pplctnsbfrthnb/rctcffshrdrllngrvw/fnlrprt2011/fnlrprt2011-eng.pdf
Changing Tides: Economic Development in Canada’s Northern Marine Waters (Oct. 2013) – http://www.conferenceboard.ca/e-library/abstract.aspx?did=5812
Centre for High North, Norway, ARCTIS Data Base (Arctic Resources and Transportation Information System) -
See in particular, the ARCTIS website's documents on the:
Arctic Policies of Arctic States - http://www.arctis-search.com/Arctic+Policies+of+Arctic+States
Arctic Policies of Non-Arctic States - http://www.arctis-search.com/Arctic+Policies+of+Non-Arctic+States
Governance of Arctic Shipping - http://www.arctis-search.com/Governance+of+Arctic+Shipping
D. United States
Transportation Research Board, "Safe Navigation in the US Arctic" (Oct. 2012, rev'd July 2013) - http://onlinepubs.trb.org/onlinepubs/conf/CPW11.pdf
"China's Arctic Aspirations" - http://www.arctis-search.com/China%E2%80%99s+Arctic+Aspirations&structure=Arctic+Policies+and+Governance
Arctic Institute, Center for Circumpolar Security Studies, "The Future of Arctic Shipping: A New Silk Road for China?" - http://www.thearcticinstitute.org/the-future-of-arctic-shipping-new-silk/