WWF welcomed the approval of new Polar Code regulations at the International Maritime Organization (IMO)’s 106th session of the Maritime Safety Committee held 2-11 November 2022 in London. These new Polar Code regulations will extend the rules on navigation and voyage planning to cover fishing vessels, private yachts and smaller cargo vessels operating in Arctic waters.
hese new navigation and voyage planning regulations are expected to be adopted in June 2023 and become mandatory from January 2026 for all fishing vessels 24m in length and over, pleasure yachts of 300 gross tonnage (GT) and over, and small cargo vessels of between 300 – 500 GT. As hazardous conditions are the norm in these remote waters, the new regulations for this category of ships and vessels are vital.
These new regulations are particularly important since these smaller vessels make up around half of the total vessels operating in the Arctic. It will, however, be important in the future to extend mandatory requirements to cover other safety measures and to improve the regulation of small fishing vessels under 24m in length which experience high levels of accidents.
commented Elena Tracy, Senior Advisor, Sustainable Development, WWF Arctic Programme.
In addition to approving new regulations, the Maritime Safety Committee also considered information provided by WWF on the challenges experienced and gaps identified in the implementation of the Polar Code and invited interested IMO Members and international organizations to submit proposals for new work to be undertaken.
WWF’s work has identified a wide range of issues in need of further consideration including the development of further guidance and probably amendment of the Polar Code.
In presenting the paper, WWF highlighted three issues, including the need for:
- Improvement and further guidance for polar voyage planning, including access to information on hydrographic date, daily temperature, sea ice conditions, marine mammal populations and migratory routes, and ecologically sensitive areas,
- strengthening of measures for ships with no or little ice-strengthening, and for mandatory measures for fishing vessels, pleasure yachts and small cargo vessels, and
- further efforts to significantly reduce or eliminate all pollution discharges into pristine polar waters.
Dr Sian Prior, Specialist in interpretation of marine science to support conservation and management policy said:
Now IMO Member States need to step-up and bring forward a proposal to the next meeting of the Maritime Safety Committee in June 2023, which sets out a plan of work to review the implementation of the Polar Code, and to address the challenges and gaps that have been identified.
The next Maritime Safety Committee meeting is scheduled to be held from 31st May – 9th June 2023.