This course is designed to teach polar shipping crew members about the hazards and safety measures involved in traversing the polar regions. The Arctic and the Antarctic are some of the most remote and challenging environments on Earth. Operating in these regions presents unique challenges, and familiarity with safe operating procedures is critical. This course will familiarize crew members with the contents of the Polar Code, including the Polar Water Operations Manual, and survival basics.
What are the governing regulations? The Polar Code was developed to address issues specific to the remote areas and harsh climates of the two poles. These conditions make for vulnerable vessels, at a time when forecasts indicate that polar shipping is expected to increase. In order to best protect polar environments, ships, and their crews, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has refined regulations in respect to the unique risks undertaken by vessels traversing the Arctic and Antarctic waters.
The International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) is an international maritime treaty with over 160 contracting states and is responsible for setting minimum safety standards in regard to the construction, operation, and equipment of merchant vessels. The IMO also developed one of the most influential marine environmental conventions, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, now known as MARPOL.
Who must take this training? Chapter 12 of the Polar Code on manning and training says that companies must ensure that masters, chief mates and officers in charge of a navigational watch on board ships operating in polar waters have completed appropriate training, taking into account the provisions of the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) and its related STCW Code. This course is intended for use by Chief and training personnel to educate ship crew.
Case Study: In August of 2018, the Anahita, an 11-meter sailboat, attempted to traverse the Northwest Passage. An official warning had gone out days before regarding the dangerous ice conditions in the area, and a clear path through the passage was not open. The men of the Anahita deliberately decided to ignore the warning issued and attempt the crossing as an adventure.
While sailing through the Bellot Strait, the ship became caught between two pieces of drift ice and was crushed, causing it to leak, then subsequently sink. The two Argentinians sailing the boat were able to activate an emergency beacon prior to having to abandon the ship and seek shelter on an ice floe. The men had the necessary water, food, warm clothing, and a life raft needed to survive.
The Canadian Coast Guard was able to rescue the men via helicopter.
Key Takeaway: It is always important to heed the warnings issued. By not doing so, these men put themselves at risk as well as search and rescue resources.
According to the International Chamber of Shipping intended to assist shipowners and operators with preparations for compliance with the Polar Code and the associated training and certification requirements:
Masters, chief mates or officers in charge of navigational watch, for continuing seagoing service on board ships operating in polar waters, at intervals not exceeding 5 years, will be required to establish continued professional competence for ships operating in polar waters.