JHC Navigating Limits Sub-Committee

The INC 1/11/03 wording reflects modern trading realities and the associated climate information is kept under review by the standing sub-committee.

Failed NSR transit, November 2017
Rosatom, the Russian state-owned company that operates the country's fleet of nuclear-powered icebreakers, advised that on October 30th, the tanker Chukotka entered the waters of the Northern Sea Route from Murmansk and then sailed alone, aiming to travel across the Arctic route without icebreaker assistance. However, the
Barents Observer has since reported that it failed. It seems that during the voyage, the ship became icebound in the Sannikov Strait, the area between the New Siberian Islands and the mainland, and subsequently drifted with the ice on to a sand bank. On November 22nd nuclear icebreaker Yamal, which is mainly used for tourism and scientific expeditions, arrived on site. The tanker was pulled free and taken to a place of safety. Rosatom said that Chukotka subsequently continued eastwards, but with support from icebreakers. Yamal is now back in ice waters near Sabetta. No leakages have been reported. Chukotka Trading Company acquired the Chukotka in 2016. She was built in 1982 in Vaasa for Shell, has ice classification and capacity to carry up to 11,000 tons of oil.

The Polar Code

The advent of the Polar Code from 2017 will provide some comfort for underwriters but it has to be seen as risk mitigation rather than a complete solution. Michael Kingston recently of DWF (michaelkingston@michaelkingston.org) has been acting as IUMI's adviser at IMO whilst the Polar Code has been finalised and is very well connected to the Arctic Council should anyone have any questions. The Arctic Council are planning to set up an expert shipping group which will be focused on best practice.

APPG Polar regions
Members of the sub-committee have also attended sessions of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions.

Climatic change is varied and complex but effects are certainly observable. Sea ice is decreasing in the Arctic but increasing in the Antarctic. It is believed the Arctic is warming at twice the global rate with a measurable loss of sea ice but the effect of retreating permafrost has not been factored into any climate models. At the last meeting it was advised that the satellite monitoring sea-ice had been decommissioned, thus causing a lack of data continuity. The main threat to coastal areas lies in the rise of sea-level, (currently rising at 3.5mm a year) as some research suggests that a 1 metre rise would displace 140 million people. 

Notable incidents

5 May 2017 - Southern Ocean Loss

Refrigerated cargo ship, 1993-built, 10,629 gt  Uruguay Reefer (IMO: 9017264) suffered a massive intake of water on May 5th in her number two hold, possibly as a result of striking ice, eventually forcing the crew to abandon ship on May 7th. The flooding was initially reported from a position about 100 nm off Elephant Island, an isolated outcropping in the Southern Ocean near the tip of the Antarctic Peninsula. The vessel still had propulsion and her master planned to seek assistance from two company-owned vessels in the vicinity of the Falkland Islands. On Sunday, vessel operator Baltmed Reefer Services reported that the Uruguay's crew was unable to halt the ingress of water and that flooding was worsening in persistent rough weather. Early on May 7th the master ordered abandon ship, and all 42 of the Uruguay's crew safely transferred to another merchant vessel, the reefer Taganrogskiy Zaliv (also operated by Baltmed). As of May 8th Uruguay Reefer appeared to be stationary about 100 nm east-southeast of the Falklands. Uruguay Reefer is entered with the UK P&I Club on behalf of member Diamond Faith Shipping of Athens.

23 February 2016 - Icebreaker goes aground in Antarctica – high winds break moorings 

Australia-chartered icebreaker Aurora Australis has gone aground in Antarctica off Mawson Station. The 6,600-gt P&O vessel (built 1989) was on a resupply mission. The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) confirmed the ship had broken free of its mooring lines during a blizzard on Wednesday afternoon. A total of 67 passengers and crew were on board, but no injuries were reported. Bad weather has prevented a full inspection of the hull. The AAD said winds of up to 130 kilometres per hour were recorded just before the ship broke free. Aurora Australis is owned by P&O Maritime Services and chartered by AAD and is due to be replaced by a new AUD 500m ($358m) icebreaker in 2019.

There are regular casualties in ice areas as these two spreadsheets demonstrate.

Increased Risk of Grounding in Barranquilla, Colombia

23 February 2015: Bulk carrier stuck in ice for several days - freed by two icebreakers
The 27,128-dwt Arthur M. Anderson (built 1952) got trapped in the frozen Lake Erie last Tuesday, while on its way to Wisconsin. A US Coast Guard ship came to help the stranded vessel but it got stuck as well. The Canadian Coast Guard sent a larger icebreaker and it helped the trapped US icebreaker before freeing Arthur M. Anderson. During the rescue, the crew of the US Coast Guard vessel was running low on food so a helicopter was deployed to supply the vessel. The ice at the area between Canada’s Ontario and Ohio in the US was reportedly up to 10 feet thick.

Area 9 – 16 January 2014: Crew rescued from Ice
12 men from the 9,600-dwt Diomid were taken off by helicopter, rescuers said. Three men - two mechanics and a guard - will remain on board until the spring to stop looters. The ship was en route from Magadan to the port of Vladivostok when it became trapped in ice off the northwestern coast of Sakhalin Island on 30 December, the RIA Novosti agency said.

Antarctic - 3 January 2014: Chinese rescue ship also runs into trouble
A Chinese ship which supplied the helicopter to airlift the stranded passengers from the 1,764-gt Akademik Shokalskiy to safety was struggling to move through the heavy ice away from the trapped Russian vessel. The Aurora Australis, carrying the rescued passengers, had been placed on standby should the 8,800-dwt Xue Long require help. The Russian vessel became trapped on 24 December in thick sea ice around 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, Tasmania.

View previous incidents.

Member's Area Responsbilities

Area 1 Arctic Mike Thompson
Area 2 Northern Seas Mike Thompson
Area 3 Baltic Sarah Wilson
Area 4 Greenland Dan Dobisz
Area 5a N America Mike Thompson / Paul Western
Area 5b N America Richard Bridges
Area 6 N America (W) Matt Gysbers
Area 7 S Ocean Richard Bridges
Area 8 Kerguelen Richard Bridges
Area 9 East Asia Matt Gysbers / Jason Page
Northern Sea Route (NSR)

Download an ABS Advisory document on the NSR

Members are regularly approached and asked about voyages to this region where there is little to no salvage capability and little reliable information. Underwriters approached to write a risk in these waters may wish to satisfy themselves on the following points - surveyors are unlikely to be available:
  • suitability of vessel for the intended voyage
  • crewing arrangements including key personnel’s levels of experience in Arctic navigation
  • proposed route and voyage dates
  • ice breaker and escort arrangements
  • access to accurate and up to date weather information and weather routing proposals and suitable ports of refuge
  • bunkering arrangements.

Permission needs to be obtained from the appropriate marine authority, appropriate navigation rules need to be complied with and it can be helpful to have a Russian speaking deck officer on board.

In their 2009 Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment, the Arctic Council noted that:

  • significant portions of the primary Arctic shipping routes do not have adequate charts to support safe navigation
  • this is most critical in the Canadian Archipelago and the Beaufort Sea and possibly other areas in the Arctic
  • furthermore there are serious limitations to radio and satellite communications for voice or data transmission in the Arctic because there is not complete satellite coverage of the region.

They also noted stated that: 

  • no research and none of the simulations have indicated that the winter sea ice cover of the Arctic Ocean will disappear during this century...it is highly plausible there will be greater marine access and longer seasons of navigation except perhaps during winter, but not necessarily less difficult ice conditions for marine operations
  • most shipping in the Arctic today is destinational
  • the majority of cruise ships observed recently in Arctic waters are not purpose-built for Arctic operations