Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 391

Commentary Getting Arctic Shipping Back on Course Clive Tesar, Rod Downie & Simon Walmsley In Iqaluit earlier this year, a clutch of ministers from Arctic states welcomed progress made on the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (the ‘Polar Code’), an International Maritime Organization (IMO) instrument to regulate shipping in Arctic and Antarctic waters. The ministers noted that the progress followed “extensive engagement by the Arctic States.” The ministers were right to welcome the progress made. The Polar Code, expected to be implemented in 2017, will for the first time introduce mandatory, polar-specific requirements for cargo vessels over 500GT and passenger vessels operating in polar waters. It is anticipated that it will lead to improved safety in Arctic shipping, with provisions on such things as training for senior officers, the requirement for a polar operations manual and polar operations certificate, and rules for different classes of ships according to their ability to operate in ice. As pointed out in a report commissioned by the Arctic Council’s PAME working group, improved safety measures reduce oil pollution risks. What the ministers did not point out that day is that the Polar Code can still do so much more to reduce the risks of impacts from shipping and protect the Arctic marine environment. A necessary next step for the Code is to extend it to smaller vessels, as so far it only applies to larger vessels. So-called SOLAS (named for the international convention on Safety of Life at Sea) vessels are ships larger than 500 gross tonnes, commercial and passenger ships. How many of the other sorts Clive Tesar is Head of Communications and External Relations, WWF Global Arctic Programme. Rod Downie is Manager of Polar Programmes, WWF UK. Simon Walmsley is Marine Manager, WWF-International.