The new regulations apply in the territorial waters surrounding Svalbard and will make sure that all passenger ships are constructed, equipped and operated in a way that provides satisfactory safety of life, health, property and environment on Svalbard.
The Government will work to ensure sustainable activity in and near Svalbard. We wish to enhance safety and security associated with increased ship traffic in the north. Therefore, it is important that we establish new rules for passenger ships operating in the waters of Svalbard. The rules are intended to prevent accidents and reduce the consequences of any accidents occurring in this remote and vulnerable area,
...said the Minister of Trade and Industry, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen.
More specifically, the regulations may involve conversions and modifications for ships not holding international certificates (SOLAS).
For these ships, a five-year transitional arrangement has been established to give the companies the opportunity to plan the phase-in of new rules and, if applicable, spread the costs over several years.
Under this regulatory work, the Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) has established a dialogue with the industry, particularly the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO).
Dialogue meetings were arranged in both Oslo and Svalbard prior to the consultation.
At the same time, the NMA has maintained a good dialogue with the Norwegian Coast Guard and the Governor of Svalbard, both providing generic feedback.
Up until now, companies have been allowed to carry passengers in Svalbard having various certificates and safety standards.
The IMO has previously adopted specific rules adapted to the special conditions in polar waters, as defined in the Polar Code, which encouraged Norway to consider rules for passenger ships in its waters.
Svalbard falls within the territorial scope of application of the Polar Code, and the considerations behind the implementation of the Polar Code are also applicable to passenger ships operating in Svalbard. Based on this, the NMA has assessed the need to introduce the requirements of the Polar Code for these ships as well.
For ships in Svalbard holding a Passenger Ship Safety Certificate in accordance with SOLAS, the new Regulations will have limited or few financial consequences.
These ships are already required to comply with the Polar Code, and the new Regulations will mainly involve operational changes.
Statistics from the Governor of Svalbard show that the ship traffic and number of passengers have increased significantly from 2008 to 2018:
- 28 overseas cruise ships - Total number of passengers carried: 28,697
- 24 expedition cruise ships - Total number of passengers carried: 10,040
- 15 overseas cruise ships - Total number of passengers carried: 45,900
- 59 expedition cruise ships - Total number of passengers carried: 21,000