The first draft of a new, mandatory Polar Code was just approved by the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The code will help ensure the safety and environmental conscientiousness of ships sailing in Arctic waters.
At the moment, there are no regulations as to what ships may or may not enter the Arctic. However, ice, extreme cold and powerful winds can come together to create unsafe conditions for crews, especially for those groups coming from Southern climes unfamiliar with these factors. This lack of cross-jurisdictional law paired with the increase in Arctic shipping activity over the last few years has recently motivated the IMO, an arm of the United Nations, to draft a set of regulations for all ships nearing either polar region.
The code requires a ship's crew to undergo specific training before it can be certified for legal operation in Arctic waters. To obtain the polar ship certificate, the crew must also complete a voyage plan that outlines solutions for worst case scenarios.
The code will also take regulatory measures to prevent oil spills and environmental pollution, including specific guidelines for waste management.
"Those areas are environmentally sensitive and the investment that companies have to make to carry out energy operations and even some shipping operations can be colossal," said Michael Kingston, a maritime lawyer, to The Wall Street Journal. "So there is a necessity to protect investments by making sure that best practice operates and no accidents occur."
The Polar Code is expected to be finalized in November at the official meeting of the Marine Safety Committee. If it is approved, it will become active on January 1, 2017.
There are a great deal of legal, safety and environmental factors that affect the shipping and logistics business no matter where the routes are, so it's often wise to hire a third-party company to take care of your transportation needs.