JHC Navigating Limits Sub-Committee

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

February 2020 Update
For early February,  members noted that its East Asia area is suffering its worst ice conditions for years although the Russian port of Vanino is kept open by ice breakers.

The Baltic has minimal ice coverage and the Gulf of St Lawrence has 95% ice coverage, mostly around 1 foot thick. The Arctic has experience higher sea temperatures and colder air temperatures, meaning ice has formed later but quicker than usual.
The ice around the Antarctic is worse than last year but below the average for the last 10 years. There is also considerable scientific concern around the Thwaites Glacier being undermined by warm sub-sea currents.  


The Arctic Council

The Arctic Council has set up a Best Practice Forum and a very useful information portal http://www.arcticshippingforum.is/ . 

APPG Polar regions

The All-Party Parliamentary Group for the Polar Regions continue to provide useful presentations, often focused on climate change which is varied and complex but the 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. The main threat to coastal areas lies in the rise of sea-level, (currently rising at 3.5mm a year). 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).

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

Australia-chartered icebreaker Aurora Australis went 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

View previous incidents.

Member's Area Responsbilities

Area 1 Arctic Matt Wells
Area 2 Northern Seas Matt Wells
Area 3 Baltic Sarah Wilson
Area 4 Greenland Katie Costello
Area 5 N America Andrew Davies
Area 6 N America (W) Matt Gysbers
Area 7 S Ocean Daisy-May White
Area 8 Kerguelen Daisy-May White
Area 9 East Asia Matt Gysbers
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. Information has improved with the advent of the Arctic Portal but 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.

Although their 2009 Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment was some while ago, the Arctic Council's points remain valid:

  • 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