POLARCODE increases safety in Polar waters

Maritime transport and economic activity is expected to increase in the Arctic. Arctic sea and water areas are environmentally extremely sensitive. To prevent environmental risks, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has issued a Polar Code, which is to enter in force on January 1, 2017. The code is an international binding norm addressed to vessels sailing in Northern Arctic waters and waters surrounding the Antarctica. The code presumes more rigorous safety and environmental regulations for vessels sailing in waters surrounding the two poles.

In order to ensure effective implementation of the Polar Code, there is a need to strengthen the evidence base of national policy makers. In Finland, this challenge is tackled by the POLARCODE project initiated on 1 September 2015, as a part of implementation of the Finnish Government Plan for Analysis, Assessment and Research 2015. The aim of the POLARCODE project is to collect and summarize existing information needed in the implementation of the Polar Code and to give recommendations concerning in particular the different options for execution of safety and environmental regulations in Finland.

One of the essential issues in terms of environmental impact of Arctic shipping are short-term climate forcers, such as black carbon. Black carbon is formed through the incomplete burning of fuels. It is the most strongly light-absorbing component of particulate matter and has a greater near-term warming impact than carbon dioxide. When deposited on snow or ice, black carbon warms the surface, resulting in the acceleration of ice-melt in the Arctic. The project will summarize the potential operational or technical approaches of reducing black carbon emissions, such as energy efficient vessel use and emission control techniques.

The project also explores Arctic ice circumstances and the ability of vessels with an ice classification according to the Finnish-Swedish ice class system to sail safely in the Arctic waters. Furthermore, recommendations will be given how this framing should be written in the Polar Water Operations Manual approved by the Flag state. In order to map safety issues related to the Polar Code, the project has involved expert organizations offering maritime training. We have organized a collaboration event for maritime schools and other interest groups in October 2015 and conducted interviews with key experts in order to outline issues related to Polar Code compatible crew qualifications and training. Last, but not least, the project studies the applicability of existing ballast water treatment (BWT) systems in Arctic conditions and will investigate if Finnish shipbuilding companies have responded to anticipations regarding the demands of IMO BWM Convention that is expected to take place during 2016.

The POLARCODE project will deliver its recommendations for policy makers by the end of February, 2016. The project is implemented in collaboration between Brahea Centre at the University of Turku, Centre for Maritime Studies (CMS) and Thule Institute at the University of Oulu.

Further information:

Project leader Johanna Yliskylä-Peuralahti (johanna.yliskyla-peuralahti(at)utu.fi), Brahea Centre at the University of Turku

Katariina Ala-Rämi (katariina.ala-rami(at)utu.fi) and Risto Rova (risto.rova(at)utu.fi), Centre for Maritime Studies Oulu

Eva Pongracz (eva.pongracz(at)oulu.fi) and Tanja Kolli (tanja.kolli(at)oulu.fi), University of Oulu, Thule Institute