June 2017

Polar Code - the Next Phase

This summer Lloyd’s will host a high-level forum in a bid to establish a risk information sharing framework to support and inform the Polar Code, which has been in force since 1 January 2017.

The International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (the Code) is far-reaching, covering the design, construction, equipment, operational, training, search and rescue, and environmental protection for ships operating in Arctic and Antarctic waters.

The Code requires vessels operating in polar regions to apply for a Polar Ship Certificate and carry a Polar Water Operational Manual, which provides the owner, operator, master and crew with information regarding the ship’s operational capabilities and limitations in the extreme conditions of polar waters.

Vessels operating in polar waters will be required to meet minimum requirements whilst the Polar Certificate and the Polar Water Operating Manual should show they are properly equipped and that crews are appropriately qualified and trained.

Economic interest in the polar regions has been increasing. Energy and mining companies are operating in polar regions, whilst cruise ships are now regularly visiting the Arctic and Antarctic – the Crystal Serenity was the first big cruise ship to sail the Northwest Passage in 2016. The potential for shorter northern shipping routes is also an attractive prospect for shipping companies looking to save fuel and avoid piracy. 

Polar waters are an extreme environment for vessels to operate in and there have been losses in the past. There were 25 incidents between 2011 and 2013 involving vessels above 65° North, according to the US Coast Guard. However, up until now, it has been difficult for insurers to assess the risks of vessels operating in polar waters. 

The Code is a positive step forward for loss mitigation that should improve the overall quality of voyages in Arctic and Antarctic waters. 

The marine insurance community will now work at understanding how the Code will affect risks in polar waters and how it can be incorporated in their risk assessment. 

An important next phase for the Polar Code is to establish a framework to share information on polar risk and experience. This will be facilitated by a high-level meeting to be hosted by Lloyd’s in June. 

There is recognition of the need to share information in order to support and further develop the Polar Code. 


Written by

Neil Roberts
Head of Marine Underwriting

This article was previously published in the 2017 Spring/Summer edition of Viewpoint


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