- Lifesaving & Fire Safety

6/20/2014: U.S. Delegation lead on the development of the Polar Code speaks on the Arctic

This is the final post in our three-part Arctic strategy and Polar Code series covering the Arctic-shipping event attended by the Coast Guard on Wednesday.

U.S. Coast Guard photo

U.S. Coast Guard photo

Wednesday, Capt. John Mauger, chief of the office of design and engineering standards, spoke at an Arctic-shipping event sponsored by the Norwegian Embassy. Mauger leads the U.S. Delegation efforts on the Polar Code development for the International Maritime Organization His remarks focused on an overview of the past four years of the proposed Polar Code’s development, the IMO’s progress and key mile-markers and how the IMO process works in regard to the code.

“The development of the code has been very much an interagency and international effort and we’ve been very fortunate that Norway has taken such a prominent role in leading the international community,” said Mauger.

Overview of the code:

The IMO has been working to improve the safety of shipping in ice-covered polar regions for over a decade. Since 2002, the IMO has maintained guidelines for ship design and operation in ice-covered waters.

These guidelines are important for both their content and their organization, as this work is the foundation on which the code was built. First and foremost, it’s important to understand that the proposed Polar Code is a ship-focused code and describes the design, construction, equipment, manning, training, plans and procedures and discharge requirements for ship operating in polar waters.

The proposed requirements in the code were developed as additions to the requirements in existing IMO Conventions which are already in force, including the International Convention for Safety of Life At Sea, or SOLAS, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, or MARPOL, and the International Convention for the Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping, or STCW.

The additional proposed requirements are based on risk factors associated with ship operations in the high latitude areas as well as the pristine environment and unique ecology in the polar regions.

The proposed code is divided into two parts: Part I on safety, additions to SOLAS and Part II on the environment, additions to MARPOL.

The development and organization of the code is important for the content; but also because it frames how the code is brought into legal effect and how it will be implemented. By layering on additional requirements to existing conventions, the code can be brought into effect more quickly, then a new IMO convention.

IMO Update:

In 2009, the IMO assigned work for developing the code to a technical sub-committee responsible for ship design and equipment standards. That sub-committee finished their work earlier this year and forwarded the draft code and amendments to the Maritime Environmental Protection Committee, or MEPC, and the Maritime Safety Committee, or MSC, for action.

Both committees met in the spring and identified their respective plans forward to complete the work and bring the code into effect. Since the code was developed as an amendment to the existing conventions, the proposed Polar Code can be brought into legal effect through the committee amendment process.

Key Accomplishments:

As presently drafted, that the proposed IMO Polar Code covers a number of important issues:

First and foremost it contains language establishing requirements for certification for ships sailing in polar waters. It will also require risk assessments and operational planning to mitigate risks. For ship’s operating in ice conditions, the language requires ice-strengthening and increased training.

Equally important, the proposed code includes new restrictions for regulated ship discharges to further mitigate the impact of shipping on the polar environment. The remaining major issues as the IMO completes the drafting of the code are navigation and communications equipment provisions as well as operations manual and documentation guidance.

In addition, remaining work will consider documentation requirements for ship’s making single voyages during summer conditions.

“Work on all of these issues is continuing in various forums through the National Arctic Strategy and the Arctic Council. Further, work within the IMO will also continue through existing and future work programs to strengthen safety, security and environmental protection for polar shipping,” said Mauger.

This blog is not a replacement or substitute for the formal posting of regulations and updates or existing processes for receiving formal feedback of the same. Links provided on this blog will direct the reader to official source documents, such as the Federal Register, Homeport and the Code of Federal Regulations. These documents remain the official source for regulatory information published by the Coast Guard.