Emerging Policy

12/20/2016: Polar Code – SOLAS applicability

UPDATE: The second and third paragraphs of the post below have been updated to clarify arctic boundaries and reduce confusion regarding the applicability of the Polar Code in U.S. waters.

Written by Lt. Chris Rabalais

The Polar Code will enter into force on Jan. 1, 2017. The applicability of the Polar Code is more complex than other Codes because it builds upon three conventions – SOLAS, several annexes of MARPOL and STCW. This post aims to clarify the applicability of the Polar Code’s safety provisions.

The Polar Code applies to vessels which operate in polar waters. These waters include both those in Antarctica (south of 60oS) and those within the Arctic as specified in SOLAS Chapter XIV. The Arctic boundary along the U.S. coast begins at 60 degrees north, on the western coast of Alaska, and continues along this parallel through the Etolin Strait all the way to the eastern coast of Russia. The waters east of the Etolin Strait, including the ports of Anchorage and Valdez, are not within polar waters.

The safety provisions of the Polar Code are incorporated by SOLAS Chapter XIV which states that vessels “operating in polar waters, certified in accordance with chapter I” must meet the Polar Code, Part I-A. All vessels on international voyages carrying one of the certificates listed in SOLAS Chapter I, must comply with the Polar Code while in polar waters. U.S. flag vessels on domestic voyages in the Arctic do not need to meet the provisions of Part I-A. Vessels which are not required to comply with Part I-A are still encouraged to do so while operating in or near polar waters.

Additional information on the Polar Code, including applicability, can be found in CVC Policy letter 16-06. You can also find a complete copy of the Polar Code on the IMO’s website.

As the Polar Code’s entry into force date approaches, additional information will be posted on the Maritime Commons series on the Polar Code. The next post in this series will provide an overview of MARPOL applicability. The Coast Guard will continue to publish notable policy and regulatory updates in the federal register.

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.

Categories: Emerging Policy, Safety

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