163/17/Gen.Inf. IMO Sec-Gen talks on Polar Code developments

Attending the Senior Arctic Officials Meeting in Juneau, Alaska,on 8-9 March, IMO Secretary General, Kitack Lim, noted the great controversy between economic development and increasing commercial activity in the Arctic region and highlighted the importance of good collaboration between IMO and the Arctic Council for the Polar Code developments.

In particular, he firstly presented the reasons of increased shipping activity in polar regions, resulting from receding sea ice, such as tourism development, distance economy between Europe and the Far East for cargo ships and the variety of the energy and mineral resources in the Arctic.

He noted: “The fact is that commercial activity and economic development in the Arctic are increasing, and increasing rapidly. The real issue is not whether this is a good thing. The real issue is how we meet these challenges without compromising either safety of life at sea or the sustainability of the polar environment”.

Kitack Lim also explained that IMO role is to ensure that the ships and people which operate in the Arctic are safe, and that their impact on the environment is minimal. IMO’s special measures have been addressing operations in polar regions for several years. Polar Code is aligned with other important IMO conventions such as SOLAS and MARPOL, but it goes beyond, as it assures safety specifically for ships operating in these areas.

In addition, he talked about the challenges confronted by ships operating in these areas:

“Poor weather conditions and the relative lack of good charts, communication systems and other navigational aids can pose serious problems. And, if accidents do occur, the remoteness of the areas makes rescue or clean-up operations difficult and costly. Extreme cold may reduce the effectiveness of numerous components of the ship, including deck machinery and emergency equipment. And when ice is present, it can impose additional loads on the hull and propulsion system”.

To address these issues, the Polar Code sets out mandatory standards that cover the full range of design, construction, equipment, operational, training and environmental protection matters, Lim says.

“From an environmental perspective, the code prohibits or strictly limits discharges of oil, chemicals, sewage, garbage, food wastes and many other substances”.

However, he noted that there is still work needed to enhance the effectiveness of Polar Code, such as further cooperation and collaboration in a number of areas. The maritime infrastructure must be further developed and strengthened and the whole maritime community should be addressed in parallel with the implementation of the Polar Code.

He concluded: “As receding sea ice opens up new opportunities for an emergent Arctic economy, the Polar Code is providing a strong regime to minimise the negative impact of shipping operations on the pristine polar regions. I firmly believe that history will look on it as a major achievement in IMO’s work to promote safe and sustainable shipping in all regions of the world, including the most challenging and difficult”.

Source : IMO

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Thank you & Best Regards,

Eng. Dimitrios Nikolaos Spanos
Lead Maritime Auditor / Principal Surveyor
Member of IRCA, IIMS, ELINT, HELMEPA & Nautical Institute

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