IMO adopts polar environmental revisions

18 May 2015
The complete Polar Code is expected to enter into force on 1 January 2017. Photo: Mark Garten

The complete Polar Code is expected to enter into force on 1 January 2017. Photo: Mark Garten

Vessels trading in the Polar Regions now have new safety and environmental regulations to comply with following the IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee’s (MEPC) adoption of the Polar Code and associated MARPOL amendments.

Adopted at the MEPC’s 68th session last week in London, the Polar Code covers the full range of design, construction, equipment, operational, training, search and rescue and environmental protection matters relevant to ships operating in waters surrounding the two poles. 

The newly-adopted environmental provisions cover prevention of pollution by oil: discharge into the sea of oil or oily mixtures from any ship is prohibited, and prevention of pollution by noxious liquid substances: discharge into the sea of noxious liquid substances, or mixtures containing such substances is prohibited.

In addition, the discharge of sewage is prohibited unless performed in line with MARPOL Annex IV and requirements in the Polar Code; as is the discharge of garbage is restricted and only permitted in accordance with MARPOL Annex V and requirements in the Polar Code.

The adoption of the environmental provisions follows the adoption, by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC), in December 2014, of the safety-related requirements of the Polar Code and related amendments to make it mandatory under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS). 

The complete Polar Code, encompassing the safety-related and environment-related requirements, is expected to enter into force on 1 January 2017 and will apply to new ships constructed on or after that date. Vessels built before that date will be required to meet the relevant requirements of the Polar Code by the first intermediate or renewal survey, whichever occurs first, after 1 January 2018. ​

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