Commercial Vessel Compliance

1/9/2017: Polar Code – MARPOL Applicability

UPDATE: This table below has been updated, and the third paragraph added, to clarify the applicability of MARPOL Annex I.

Written by Lt. Chris Rabalais, Office of Design and Engineering Standards

On January 1, 2017 the Polar Code entered into force. The Polar Code builds upon MARPOL Annexes I, II, IV and V as well as SOLAS requirements. The Code applies to vessels which operate in polar waters, as defined in the applicable sections of MARPOL. Unlike the SOLAS applicability, there is not an extended implementation date for existing vessels. The MARPOL provisions became mandatory for all vessels operating in polar waters on January 1, 2017.

Each chapter of the Polar Code Part II-A addresses a different pollution source and correlates with the relevant Annex of MARPOL. The applicability of each chapter is also the same as the parent MARPOL Annex. General MARPOL applicability of the relevant annexes is shown below:


As part of the Polar Code implementation the IOPP supplements were amended. Newly constructed vessels subject to survey and certification under Annex I (tank vessels over 150 GT and non-tank vessels over 400 GT), will need a Form A or Form B certificate that reflects compliance with Part II-A, Section 1.2 of the Polar Code, if operating in ice more than 0.3 meters thick.

The United States is not a signatory of MARPOL Annex IV. However, many U.S. flagged vessels which travel internationally carry Statements of Voluntary Compliance (SOVC). In order for these SOVCs to remain valid, vessels which operate in polar waters must implement the additional provisions of the Polar Code related to sewage discharge. These requirements are found in Part II-A, Chapter 4 of the Polar Code.

For more detail on the applicability and provisions of the Polar Code see CVC Policy letter 16-06.

Readers can also review the Polar Code series for additional information. The next post in this series will highlight requirements for newly constructed vessels. The Coast Guard will continue to publish any notable policy or 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.