International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code)

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In news: Union Minister Dr. Jitendra Singh released India’s new Arctic Policy titled India and the Arctic: building a partnership for sustainable development’ in February 2022. The thawing of ice in the Arctic is not only a portentous indicator of Climate Change, but it also has bearing on all countries. India’s new Arctic policy rests on six pillars in accordance with the Polar Code.

What is Polar Code?

The International Maritime Organization has adopted a mandatory Polar Code to provide for safe ship operation and environmental protection in the polar regions. If you operate a SOLAS or MARPOL ship in Arctic or Antarctic waters, then your ship will need to comply with all or part of this Code.

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What is the purpose of the Polar Code?

The International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (the Polar Code) is a new code adopted by the IMO. The Code acknowledges that polar waters may impose additional demands on ships beyond those normally encountered. It provides a mandatory framework for ships operating in polar waters. The main requirements are related to safety, protection of the environment, and seafarer competence, and it is implemented through amendments to International Maritime Conventions such as SOLAS, MARPOL, and the STCW.

Where does it apply?

The Polar Code applies to certain ships that will operate on domestic or international voyages in Arctic or Antarctic waters.

Who does it apply to?

The Polar Code applies to ships, depending on their international certification requirements, as follows:

  • Part I safety requirements and Part I manning and training requirements apply to ships certified in accordance with SOLAS and which operate in polar waters.
  • Part II environmental protection requirements apply to ships that must comply with MARPOL and which operate in polar waters. For non-SOLAS ships that are required to hold a MARPOL certificate (such as fishing vessels), only the Part II environmental protection requirements of the Polar Code apply.

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