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.

 General industry resources

 National resources

 Miscellaneous documents & advisories

Club publications

Date: 31/10/2016
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.
Date: 09/09/2014
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 overview:

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

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:

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Miscellaneous documents & advisories

Date: 13/12/2016
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. 
Date: 17/02/2016
​​​​​​​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. 
Date: 02/04/2014
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.
Date: 30/03/2014
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.
Date: 30/03/2014
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.

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Arctic Council –

Arctic Institute of North America (University of Calgary) -

Canadian Polar Commission -

Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency -

Conference Board of Canada -

Inuit Circumpolar Conference –

National Snow and Ice Data Center (U.S.) –

United States Arctic Research Commission (USARC) -

Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs (U.S.) -

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (U.S.) -

Northern Sea Route Information Office (Russia) -

Documents - Legal and Administrative re Arctic Navigation

A. United Nations

United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea - Part XII - Marine Environment:

B. Arctic Council

Declaration on the Establishment of the Arctic Council (Ottawa Declaration 1996):

Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment 2009 Report:

C. Transport Canada

Checklist for Vessels Navigating in Canadian Arctic Waters:

Acts and Regulations:

In particular:  Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. A-12:

Arctic Shipping Pollution Prevention Regulations, C.R.C., c. 353:,_c._353.pdf

Arctic Pollution Prevention Regulations, C.R.C., c. 354:,_c._354.pdf

Arctic Shipping:

(Arctic) Shipping Operations:

Arctic Ice Regime Shipping System (AIRSS):

Arctic Ice Regime Shipping System (AIRSS) Standards:

Arctic Ice Regime Shipping Pictorial Guide:

Zone/Date System (Z/DS):

National Oil Spill Preparedness and Response Regime:

Spill Response Procedures:

Arctic Waters Oil Transfer Guidelines:

Shipping and the Environment:

Cruise Ships:

Guidelines for the Operation of Passenger Vessels in Canadian Arctic Waters (2005):

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):

Vessel Traffic Reporting Arctic Canada Traffic Zone (NORDREG):

Northern Canada Vessel Traffic Services Zones Regulations (SOR/2010-127):

and related Shipping Safety Control Zones Order (C.R.C., c. 356):,_c._356.pdf

Ship Station (Radio) Regulations, 1999 (SOR/2000-2600 (sect. 15 re the Navigation in the Arctic):

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) –

The EU and the Arctic - European Foreign Policy in the Making -

B. Canada

Canada’s Northern Strategy (2009) -

Review of Offshore Drilling in the Canadian Arctic (Dec. 2011) – National Energy Board –

Changing Tides: Economic Development in Canada’s Northern Marine Waters (Oct. 2013) –

C. Norway

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 -

Arctic Policies of Non-Arctic States -

Governance of Arctic Shipping -

D. United States

Transportation Research Board, "Safe Navigation in the US Arctic" (Oct. 2012, rev'd July 2013) -

E. China

"China's Arctic Aspirations" -

Arctic Institute, Center for Circumpolar Security Studies,  "The Future of Arctic Shipping: A New Silk Road for China?" -

Additional Links

Emergency Contacts

If you need to call our offices out of hours and at weekends, click After Office hours for a up to date list of the names of the Duty Executives and their mobile phone numbers. 

Ship Finder

This Ship Finder is updated on a daily basis. Members who need to advise the Club of updates to their recorded ships' details should advise their usual underwriting contact.

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