- Domestic Vessels

8/18/2014: Polar Code workshop after-action: Coast Guard regional perspective

This is a part of the Maritime Commons blog-post series on the process forward for adopting a Polar Code for ships operating in Arctic and Antarctic waters. Wednesday, the Coast Guard hosted a workshop on the Polar Code in Seattle. For those of you who could not attend, Maritime Commons is providing an after-action blog post for each of the Coast Guard spokespersons that presented at the workshop.

Lt. Cmdr. Jason Boyle, of Coast Guard District 17, provided regional perspectives from the operational commander in Alaska at the Polar Code workshop.

Boyle highlighted some of the Coast Guard’s efforts in support of maritime arctic activities.

The Coast Guard is conducting training and drills in preparation for the increase in maritime traffic and possibility for a maritime incident. In conjunction with port partners, the Coast Guard conducts mass rescue and ice rescue training and works closely with local emergency responders to ensure that the port communities are capable of responding if an incident were to occur. In May, they conducted a simulated cruise ship fire drill where they brought injured personnel to shore in lifeboats and local emergency responders had to triage and treat victims. The training drill involved local hospitals, victim actors and outlying village observers.

Boyle also shared information regarding the type of marine traffic transiting the Bering Strait into Arctic waters. In 2013, there were 440 unique vessels that transited the Bering Strait and that number is expected to increase.

“The types of vessels transiting the Arctic are mostly cargo vessels including container, break bulk and tanker traffic. Additionally, traffic is beginning to increase along the Northwest Passage, coming through the Bering Strait and going over to Canada as well as the Northern Sea Route which takes vessels through the Bering Strait and over to the side of the Arctic,” said Boyle.

Lastly, Boyle shared three of the concerns for District 17’s area of responsibility. There are three regional observations with how the Polar Code will affect their infrastructure in Alaska.

• Affect on domestic towing vessel and barge fleet that service the hub cities and villages in the Arctic, depending on applicability of the code
• Lack of port infrastructure in the Arctic to handle increased shipping and wastes
• Lack of infrastructure to respond to any maritime distress for vessels transiting the Bering Strait, Northern Sea Route or the Northwest Passage

Presentations from Thursday’s workshop are available on the Docket. Submit your comments on the Polar Code by September 1, 2024 and subscribe to Maritime Commons for additional after-action blog-posts from the workshop!

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.

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