IMO is developing a draft mandatory International Code of safety for ships operating in polar waters (Polar Code), to cover the full range of design, construction, equipment, operational, training, search and rescue and environmental protection matters relevant to ships operating in the inhospitable waters surrounding the two poles.
The work is being co-ordinated by the¬† Sub-Committee on Ship Desgin and Construction (SDC)¬† - formerly the¬† Sub-Committee on Ship Design and Equipment (DE).
At its first session (20 to 24 January 2014), the SDC Sub-Committee agreed in principle to the draft text of the mandatory International Code for ships operating in polar waters (Polar Code) and also agreed in principle to proposed draft amendments to IMO‚Äôs safety and pollution prevention treaties to make it mandatory.
The Sub-Committee agreed in principle to a draft new chapter XIV ‚ÄúSafety measures for ships operating in polar waters‚ÄĚ, of the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), to make the Code mandatory, for forwarding to the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), which next meets in May 2014, for consideration.
Also, proposed draft amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), to make the Polar Code mandatory under Annexes I (prevention of pollution by oil), II (noxious liquid substances), IV (sewage) and V (garbage) were also agreed, in principle, for forwarding to the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC), which next meets end of March/beginning of April.
The draft chapter of the Polar Code relating to training and manning will be referred to the Sub-Committee on Human Element Training and Watchkeeping (HTW), which meets in February 2014, for further review, while the draft chapters on fire protection/safety and life-saving appliances will be referred to the Sub-Committee on Ship Systems and Equipment (SSE), which meets in March.¬† The draft chapters on Safety of navigation and Communication will be referred to the Sub-Committee on Navigation, Communication and Search and Rescue (NCSR) in June/July.¬† All three Sub-Committees will report on their work to the MSC and MEPC.
The Polar Code is intended to cover the full range of shipping-related matters relevant to navigation in waters surrounding the two poles ‚Äď ship design, construction and equipment; operational and training concerns; search and rescue; and, equally important, the protection of the unique environment and eco-systems of the polar regions.
Agreement in principle has been reached on definitions for the different categories of ship to be covered by the Code, as follows:
Category A ship means a ship capable to operate at least in medium first-year ice which may include old ice inclusions in accordance with an ice class at least equivalent to those acceptable to the Organization.
Category B ship means a ship capable to operate in sea ice conditions other than those included in Category A with an ice class at least equivalent to those acceptable to the Organization.
Category C ship means any ship which is not a Category A or Category B ship.
It has been agreed that that all ships operating in polar waters should have a Polar Ship Certificate and a Polar Water Operation Manual.
As instructed by the main committees, it has been agreed that the Polar Code would be adopted by separate MSC and MEPC resolutions, with amendments to mandatory instruments to be developed to make the Code mandatory. This would also impact on the structuring of the Code.
A Polar Code correspondence group is continuing the work.
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