In May, the 2nd Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum was attended by representatives from over 40 interested organisations, in addition to the eight Arctic States (Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden and the United States). The Forum was founded in 2017 to help raise awareness and to promote the effective implementation of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code)..
Over the past year, many stakeholders have contributed information to the Forum and this has enabled the launch of a public web-portal, accessible at www.arcticshippingforum.is. This comprises over 120 pieces of information from authoritative sources including the Arctic States, intergovernmental organisations, classification societies, the shipping industry, marine insurers, and non-governmental organisations. The submissions have all been checked by Arctic State experts, and so can be relied on as accurate.
For the first time, there is a central archive of dependable hydrographic, meteorological and ice data. The portal is intended to be regularly updated as new information becomes available. This resource will undoubtedly be of use to anyone considering an Arctic voyage and the risk assessment around it. Recent additions include detailed Danish guidance for navigation around Greenland and Norwegian charts for the corridor around Spitsbergen.
It is worth noting that still only five per cent of the Arctic is mapped to modern standards with the information on many charts dating back to before 1950, and those can incorporate a 25 per cent depth error and a 500-metre positional error.
The Forum agreed that more should be done to try to harmonise the standards of ship certification, accreditation for ice navigation and the Polar Water Manuals which ranged widely in depth and quality. It was noted that climate change is producing more and larger icebergs, meaning that careful voyage planning and watch-keeping will be of crucial importance.
The Forum also heard that the second stage of Polar Code work would soon begin at IMO by addressing the non-SOLAS vessels not previously included in the Code, namely yachts, fishing vessels and cargo vessels under 500 grt.