- Domestic Vessels

8/18/2014: Polar Code workshop after-action: Other international governances

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.

This post provides key-takeaways from Cmdr. Marc Zlomek, Coast Guard liaison to the Department of State, and his presentation on other international bodies involved with the development of the Polar Code.

Zlomek explained how the U.S. Government engages with international partners in the development of the Polar Code and shed light on the context and the framework in which the International Maritime Organization negotiates.

During his presentation, Zlomek described the role of the Arctic Council and Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings in supporting the IMO work on the Code.

The Arctic Council is an international forum, established in 1996, for the eight Arctic states to come together and discuss Arctic issues. The Arctic states include: the United States, Canada, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Russia, Denmark and Iceland.

The Arctic Council, as a forum, does not have a legal identify of its own but it provides a setting in which the eight individual Arctic states may come together to address issues multi-laterally. This multi-lateral cooperation has resulted in two agreements to date. One pertains to search and rescue and the other is oil spill response and preparedness.

The Council chair rotates every two years; the U.S. will chair the Council from 2015-2017. Currently Canada is the chair and prior to Canada, Sweden held the position. At the conclusion of Sweden’s chairmanship, the council provided a declaration to support the creation of a Polar Code.

Zlomek explained the involvement of the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, or ATCM, in policy related to the Arctic.

The ATCM is the international forum that oversees the administration & management of the Antarctic Treaty System. This group, which has a larger membership than the Arctic Council, has also been supportive of the work that IMO is doing to strengthen maritime governance in the Polar Regions. Resolution 3 from the ATCM’s 2014 meeting recognized that the IMO is the competent organization to deal with shipping regulations and encouraged the finalization of the Polar Code.

“One of the things I keep hearing, as I go to different meetings, is that there’s not just one Arctic but many Arctics. Across the Arctic we have different languages, geographies, cultures, industries and varying ice coverage. The Polar Code has to account for all the variation across the Arctic and cover the Antarctic as well,” said Zlomek.

Zlomek provided a list of participants from the IMO’s Polar Code Working Group to show a representative sample of the stakeholders participating in the code’s development.

“There are lots of states that aren’t necessarily associated with either of the poles. You have states that are strong in shipping, you have lots of expertise, there are international government organizations and there are non-governmental organizations that represent the shipping and environmental sectors. There’s lots of great knowledge at the IMO and a wide variety of views. As the U.S. government engages with our international partners in the development of a Polar Code, this is the context and the framework in which we negotiate with,” said Zlomek.

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.