ICS guidelines aim to improve safety in polar waters

A helicopter carrier supplies ships anchored in Maxwell Bay, King George island, Antartica. Credit: Emiliano Lasalvia/NurPhoto via Getty Images

The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) and the Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) have published new guidelines that will help shipowners and operators tailor their mandatory Polar Water Operational Manuals (PWOM) to suit the safety and environmental challenges that their individual ships may encounter when operating in the polar regions.

An increasing number of ships are undertaking voyages in polar waters, and maritime trade in the remote region is forecast to expand in the coming years despite challenging and unpredictable sea and weather conditions. Under such conditions, and especially in ice, the way in which a ship is operated is critical for safety and environmental protection.

The International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code), which entered into force on 1 January 2017, requires shipping companies operating ships in polar waters to develop a PWOM. This is a requirement, and once the PWOM is developed, the ship is issued with a Polar Ship Certificate.

Although Appendix II of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Polar Code provides shipowners and operators with a model PWOM, ICS and OCIMF said they recognised that additional guidance was necessary to help shipping companies develop a quality, comprehensive PWOM that suits each individual ship and its requirements. Their guidelines will help to improve safety in the polar region, ICS and OCIMF added.

Topics addressed in the ‘Guidelines for the Development of a Polar Water Operational Manual’ include identifying hazards, understanding operational limitations, updating procedures, upgrading equipment and systems, understanding relevant legislation, and ensuring that the results of assessments are fully addressed in the PWOM.

The guidelines can be downloaded for free from the ICS and OCIMF websites and the Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum (ASBPIF) web portal.