Polar Code comes into force

By Michael Kingston, Managing Director, Michael Kingston Associates, Lawyer -

The Polar Code (the Code) is a new mandatory code with specific requirements to enhance maritime safety, training and environmental protection in the Polar Regions. It came into effect 1 January 2017. The code consists of two parts, each of which includes both mandatory and recommendatory sections. Part I addresses safe design, construction and operation. Part II addresses environmental protection.

The Code requirements consider the unique risks associated with operating in the Polar Regions including: ice, low temperatures, high latitude, remoteness, severe weather, limited charting and the pristine environment.

The Polar Regions are incredibly diverse; as such it is impossible to develop a one-size-fits-all solution for ship design and construction. Accordingly, the Code was developed as a goal-based code; the standards for ice-strengthening and safe design differ depending on the risks associated with the activities.

Polar Operations Manual

One of the key elements of the Code is the requirement for a Polar Waters Operational Manual (PWOM). The purpose of this manual is to outline the following: the design standards that the ship was built to, the operational assumptions that go into those design standards and the operational limitations that will be put on the Polar Ship Certificate which will be issued by the Flag State. Central to an understanding of a ship’s limitation is the inclusion of the Polar Operational Limitation Assessment Risk Indexing System (POLARIS).

Safety equipment. Navigation / Communication / Environment

Given the risks associated with operations in the Polar Regions, the Code also includes measures to protect vital safety equipment and ensure increased ability to respond to emergencies.  It also requires additional navigation equipment and communication equipment to ensure operability, and there are detailed environmental provisions to adhere to including limitations on operational discharges, such as zero discharge of oil and oily mixtures, and noxious liquid substances, and restrictions on the discharge of sewage and garbage. There are also additional design and construction restrictions such as added tank protection and increased resistance to damage to reduce the chance for spilling oil or noxious liquid substances.