The Polar Code, an international regime covering a range of shipping-related matters for vessels operating in polar waters, was adopted by the International Maritime Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations headquartered in London, England. Effective January, 1, 2017, the rules regulate navigation in waters in and around the Arctic and Antarctica, and include ship design, construction and equipment; operational and training concerns; search and rescue; and the protection of the unique environment and eco-systems of the polar regions.

The regulations are expected to prevent sea pollution from ships sailing through the ice-choked waters. Recently written by Costas Paris, a Wall Street Journal senior reporter, the “Polar Code is far more restrictive than existing rules in other parts of the open ocean,” and will greatly restrict how ship operators can dispose of waste.

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According to Paris, “the rules will ban discharges of oily residue produced by ships’ engines, and chemicals used to clean ships, including their tanks.” In addition, he says, “food waste will be required to be ground and dumped at least 14 miles from land or the nearest ice formation.” And, “ships must also stay clear of areas populated by marine mammals like whales and seals.” Paris also says, “the existing rules allow some oily discharges and are less-protective of mammal grounds.

The Polar Code requires ships operating in waters of the Antarctic and Arctic to apply for a Polar Ship Certificate, which classifies vessel as Category A: ships designed for operation in polar waters at least in medium first-year ice, and Category B: a ship designed for operation in polar waters in at least thin first-year ice. In addition, a separate agreement on safety rules involving polar shipping was established in November 2015. It includes new requirements in ship design and equipment, crew training, and search-and-rescue operations.

Do to several years of warmer temperatures and melting polar ice, more shipping traffic is anticipated in areas impossible to traverse just a few years ago. Consequently, the new rules are expected to maintain the environmental conditions that exist today. For more details, visit shipping in polar waters.

This articles appeared in Global Impact, a Great American Insurance Group publication.

John Manzella
About The Author John Manzella [Full Bio]
John Manzella, founder of the Manzella Report, is a world-recognized speaker, author of several books, and an international columnist on global business, trade policy, labor, and the latest economic trends. His valuable insight, analysis and strategic direction have been vital to many of the world's largest corporations, associations and universities preparing for the business, economic and political challenges ahead.

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