The Polar Code, like a guideline, purposely leaves plenty of room for sovereign Arctic states and ship operators to set standards as they see fit, delegates were told at Nor-Shipping conference on 4 June.
Ove Tautra, a senior advisor for the Norwegian Maritime Authority, was asked if the Polar Code would make it easier for a national authority to handle matters in the North. He replied, “I don’t think the authorities can give the best answers on how to decide [on the best measures for these areas], so it is important to give freedom.
“That is also the intention with the Polar Code, the way it was written, that there should be freedom to find the best solution; that will also give a challenge to interpret the Code.”
He also said that Norway intends to delegate compliance of the Norwegian fleet to a class society, which will issue the Polar Code Certificate for that fleet.
The needs of the hour post-Polar Code adoption were outlined by DNV GL’s ‘discipline leader’ for Arctic operation and technology, Morten Mejlænder-Larsen.
He admitted that the class society is struggling with a number of issues: interpretation of the Code’s stipulations, verification and criteria, what documentation is needed to fulfil the Code’s goals, and functional requirements to make a ship compliant.
Documenting compliance for an ice-class ship is straightforward, said Mejlænder-Larsen, but finding equivalence with the Polar Code for other categories used by the various ice shipping regimes and documenting these is not, he said.
Functional requirements that will need to be assessed and certified as compliant include aspects such as escape routes and disembarkation arrangements to provide safe abandonment of the ship, and to ensure that all life-saving equipment and clothing must be functional during the maximum expected time of rescue, which is up to five days.
Guideline approach to a polar shipping regulation was considered by Andrew Kendrick, vice-president of operations for Vard Marine, who is an expert in ice and Arctic shipping and a member of the Canadian delegation to the IMO. Speaking in a personal capacity, Kendrick said that the regulation’s safety aspects are expressed in performance terms, which are subject to interpretation and causing concern to groups that have studied the Code in depth.
He said that national administrations and class societies are not going to see in Arctic operators the level of real understanding that they would like.
While the environmental aspects of the Code are much more prescriptive and include new discharge standards, Kendrick highlighted that the difference between the Antarctic’s ‘environmental control area ‘ (ECA) status and the Arctic’s lack of this status, and that it can only be achieved through a request to the International Maritime Organization (IMO), in this case from the Arctic states.
Under IMO guidelines, a certain traffic density is required before an ECA is imposed in a region. However, Kendrick clarified to IHS Maritime, “The IMO can override that guideline, but it needs to be requested to do so, and no request was ever made.”
Mejlænder-Larsen also pointed out the lack of available competence and experience among the personnel going to operate in the Arctic. He said there is a need to develop certified training courses to fulfil this requirement. His recommendation was that those who are experienced in Arctic shipping should document what they are currently doing so that this may be used as guidance.
In a later debate on ‘Optimizing Asset Performance’, V Ships’ executive director Bob Bishop revealed how his organisation was overcoming inexperience on board ships. “Today, people spend less time at sea to get promoted so there is less experience on the job, so you need to provide the experience somewhere else.
“We have, in our organisation, taken all the old salts that we have – all the old superintendents, fleet managers, and so on – and put them together and downloaded all their experience. Let them swing the lamp for days on end and tell us stories. And we captured all that and turned it into a training programme so that we can get all that wonderful experience and knowledge into a programme that we can then pass on to new generations of superintendents,” said Bishop.
Viking Supply Ships is one company that is developing ice shipping training courses for officers and crew. Partners with Kalmar University College, Sweden, the company has its own Ice Academy that is approved by the Swedish Maritime Authorities to issue the official ice endorsement required to work under icy conditions. The company also has an Ice Council, an international ice advisory board to provide ice management and icebreaking advice.
Andreas KjØl, the company’s project director, said, “We have a lot of experience in-house and on board our vessels. It is very important to use the people who know the challenges on what we can and cannot do. We use our most experienced Arctic captains as instructors and they will also prepare material.”
KjØl said the company is updating its basic Arctic training course, which was created in 2009, and is also creating new training models, both theoretical and simulator models.
“It’s very important to not have an overly theoretical approach [to training]; it must be hands on – this is very important for polar water operations,” he said.
While the adoption of the Polar Code regulation is just the tip of a substantial iceberg for safe and environmentally sound Arctic shipping industry, it offers a significant commercial and creative opportunity for designers of technologies and equipment that can withstand extreme low temperatures. Mejlænder-Larsen conceded that there is a lack of equipment certified for polar waters and extreme low temperatures.
Nils-Arild Henriksen, manager for regulatory affairs at Norsafe, a lifeboat building company, was also on the panel and offered his perspective.
He made it clear that new lifeboats have to be designed. Ships currently transiting the Arctic, he said, do not have lifeboats that are fit for purpose under the Polar Code. For example, ordinary lifeboats would not: survive a freefall onto ice or snow; provide sufficient room for all the crew who would be wearing bulky suits to withstand the cold; or the appropriate environment for human survival – an enclosed lifeboat would have to be ventilated, but opening a hatch in -30° degrees would “freeze you to death”, said Henriksen. He said that some ships operating in the region have innovated and created tunnels from the vessel into the lifeboats, ensuring that the crew need not be exposed to life-endangering temperatures.
He was doubtful that currently available lifeboats could keep a whole crew alive for the Polar Code’s stipulated five days – and in reality, if the conditions were bad, he said, the wait time for rescue could be much longer.
Henriksen also asked if life boats for the Arctic should be fitted with guns. “There are ice bears there and they will eat you. So, do we provide guns? I don’t know,” he said.