shutterstock 29795515The International Maritime Organization (IMO) is the specialized agency of the United Nations responsible for the safety, security and environmental performance of international shippingIndeed, the safety of ships operating in the harsh, remote and vulnerable polar areas and the protection of the pristine environments around the two poles have always been a matter of concern for IMO and many relevant requirements, provisions and recommendations have been developed over the years.

​IMO has adopted the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code) and related amendments to make it mandatory under both the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). The Polar Code entered into force on 1 January 2017. This marks an historic milestone in the Organization’s work to protect ships and people aboard them, both seafarers and passengers, in the harsh environment of the waters surrounding the two poles.

The Polar Code (click for full text) is intended to cover the full range of shipping-related matters relevant to navigation in waters surrounding the two poles – ship design, construction and equipment; operational and training concerns; search and rescue; and, equally important, the protection of the unique environment and eco-systems of the polar regions.

polar codeApplication
Only vessels that intend to operate within the Arctic and Antarctic areas as defined in the Polar Code need to comply with the code. The areas are as follows (also see map on the right):
  • Arctic: In general north of 60° N but limited by a line from Greenland; south at 58° - north of Iceland, southern shore of Jan Mayen - Bjørnøya – Cap Kanin Nos.
  • Antarctic: South of 60° S.
The safety part of the Polar Code applies to ships certified under SOLAS, i.e. cargo ships of 500 GT or more, and to all passenger ships.

Ships constructed on or after 1 January 2017 shall comply with the safety part of Polar Code at delivery.

Ships constructed before 1 January 2017 shall comply with the safety part of the Polar Code by the first intermediate or renewal survey, whichever occurs first, after 1 January 2018.

The environmental part of the Polar Code applies to all ships certified under MARPOL Annexes I, II, IV and V respectively. Existing and new ships certified under MARPOL shall comply with the environmental requirements by 1 January 2017. This means that fishing vessels (that carry MARPOL certificates) will also have to comply with the environmental part of the code, although not carrying any SOLAS certificates.

Text from DNV.

shutterstock 35295883PAME and the Polar Code
In 2009, PAME released the Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA) which recommended that the Arctic States cooperatively support efforts at the IMO to augment global ship safety and pollution prevention conventions with specific Arctic requirements. This recommendation was further complemented by Arctic Council Ministers issuing a declaration “encourag[ing] active cooperation within the [IMO] on development of relevant measures to reduce the environmental impacts of shipping in Arctic waters.” More recent Arctic Council Declarations, including the Iqaluit Declaration (2015) and the Fairbanks Declaration (2017), contain similar calls for closer collaboration between the Arctic Council and the IMO on issues of Arctic shipping remains.Since 2012, the PAME has consistently encouraged the timely implementation of the Polar Code, and now that the Code is in force, encourages Arctic and Observers States to continue to work towards a harmonized and effective implementation. Complementing these calls to action, PAME is also developing a Polar Code information brochure, and has created the Arctic Shipping Best Practices Information Forum to assist with implementation of the Polar Code.

The Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum
PAME's establishment of the Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum is in response to the Polar Code. The aim of the Forum is to raise awareness of its provisions amongst all those involved in or potentially affected by Arctic marine operations and to facilitate the exchange of information and best practices between the Forum members on specific shipping topics, including but not limited to; hydrography, search and rescue logistics, industry guidelines and ship equipment, systems and structure. A publicly accessible web-portal will be created with information specific to each topic.

More on the Forum here.

IMG 1371International Conference on Harmonized implementation of the Polar Code
The Finnish Transport Safety Agency (Traf)i organised together with PAME an international Polar Code conference as part of Finland’s Chairmanship programme in February 2018. At this conference, the Arctic Council member states, seafarers and industry representatives shared their experiences of Polar Code implementation during the first year of its enhancement. The conference website is available here.

Session I Introduction, session moderated by Dr. Anita Mäkinen (Finnish Transport Safety Agency)
IMG 1378Session II Challenges of the Implementation of the Polar Code for Administrations, session moderated by Dr. Anita Mäkinen (Finnish Transport Safety Agency)

Session III Challenges of the Implementation of the Polar Code for Seafarers, session moderated by Rob Hindley (Aker Arctic Technology Inc)

Session IV Identified challenges and future solutions, session moderated by Rob Hindley (Aker Arctic Technology Inc)

IMO in the polar environment: the Polar Code explained

Infographics from IMO:

How the Polar Code protects the environment English infographic

Polar Code Ship Safety Infographic smaller
This page lists Participants of the Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum. According to the Forum’s Terms of Reference, the "Arctic States intend Forum participation to be open to Arctic States, Permanent Participants and Arctic Council Observers as well as any widely-recognized professional organizations dedicated to improving safe and environmentally sound marine operations in the Arctic as demonstrated by expertise and experience in Arctic shipping and/or related issues...."

To apply for participant status, please contact PAME (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

Please click the boxes for information on each participant

group photoThe 6th EA Workshop on Ecosystem Approach Guidelines and Integrated Ecosystem Assessment, co-sponsored by the Joint Ecosystem Approach Expert Group (PAME, AMAP, CAFF, SDWG) and the ICES was held 9-11 january 2018 in Seattle, WA, USA.

Program, background documents and registration:
  • Workshop program here
  • Background document here
Workshop objectives:
1. Scope and start work on development of guidelines for Ecosystem Approach to management (EA) in the Arctic.
shutterstock 2035259112. Review status of work on developing and doing Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA) to develop best practices for Arctic IEA.

Background: The Joint (PAME, AMAP, CAFF, SDWG) Ecosystem Approach expert group (EA-EG) has held 5 workshops in 2011-2015 on various aspects of development of EA to the management of Arctic marine ecosystems. A first International Conference on EA implementation in the Arctic was held in Fairbanks, Alaska, in August 2016.

The Joint EA-EG prepared a report on ‘Status of Implementation of the Ecosystem Approach to Management in the Arctic’ (download here) that was delivered through PAME to Senior Arctic Officials and Ministers. In the Fairbanks Declaration from the Ministerial meeting in May 2016, the ministers reaffirmed the need for an ecosystem approach to management in the Arctic, and encouraged future efforts to develop practical guidelines for implementing an ecosystem approach. The Joint EA-EG has developed a framework with six elements for implementing the EA in the Arctic.

The first element is to identify (geographically) the ecosystem to be managed, and this has been done through delineation of the Arctic marine environment into 18 Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs-download here). Another key element of the framework is Integrated Ecosystem Assessment (IEA), which is the step where the overall conditions and status of the ecosystem are assessed, including impacts (singular and cumulative) of human activities which take place or are planned in the given ecosystem.Carrying out an IEA is scientifically demanding, but is nevertheless essential for effective EA implementation.

The work at the 6th EA workshop will focus on two related subjects:
  • Development of EA guidelines, as requested by the Arctic Council ministers1, and
  • share and summarize information and experiences with integrated assessments of ecosystem status as a step toward developing best practices for Arctic IEA, for measuring trends and pressures for coastal and marine areas (which is a follow-up of EBM recommendation 3.5 from Kiruna in 2013).
The 6th EA workshop is co-sponsored by the International Council for Exploration of the Sea (ICES), which has established regional working groups for doing IEAs, e.g. for the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea LMEs, including one group jointly with PAME and PICES for the Central Arctic Ocean (WGICA). Within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) of the USA, there is a program for IEA which is also supporting the planning and conduct of the workshop. The planning group for the workshop will prepare a background document that will be circulated to participants prior to the workshop in January. The background document will provide more information and guidance for the work to be carried out at the workshop.

1 Fairbanks Declaration (2017), paragraph 32: Reaffirm the need for an ecosystem approach to management in the Arctic, welcome the Status of Implementation of the Ecosystem Approach to Management in the Arctic Report, and encourage future efforts to develop practical guidelines for implementing an ecosystem approach.


Session 1: Definitions, concepts and EA framework
Session 2: Guidelines for EA implementation in the Arctic (breakout groups)
  • No presentations
Session 3: Practical experience with IEA
Session 3A - ICES work and experiences in IEA
Session 3B – NOAA IEA program
  • IEA in Alaska (joint PDF)
    • Eastern Bering Sea (Kirstin Holsman)
    • Gulf of Alaska (Jamal Moss)
  • IEA in California Current (Chris Harvey)
  • Ecosystem Status Reports/ Ecosystem Considerations (Stephani Zador AFSC)
  • Traditonal Knowledge and Co-managment (TBC)
  • Local and Traditonal Knowledge (Harry Brower)
  • Non-market Valuation (Dan Lew, AFSC)
  • Human Dimensions (Steve Kasperski, AFSC)
  • Risk Assessment (Jameal Samhouri, NWFSC)

Session 3C – Experiences from IEA work in the Arctic Council and other jurisdictional frameworks 
From the Arctic Protected Areas: Indicator Report

The extent of protected areas in the Arctic’s marine environment (Fig. 6) has almost quadrupled since 1980 (Fig. 7). In 2016, 4.7% of the Arctic marine area (860,000 km2) was protected, which, when considered at a pan-Arctic scale, falls short of the Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 goal of 10% of coastal and marine areas to be protected by 2020 (Fig. 7). The marine protected areas are dominated by several very large areas and some parts of the Arctic marine ecosystem was poorly protected in 2016.

Figure 6: Marine protected areas in the Arctic classified according to their IUCN Management Category, 2016.

All but 8% of the 334 current marine protected areas found within the CAFF Boundary have been assigned
an IUCN Management Category. Protected areas falling in Category IV, Habitat/Species Management Areas,
cover the largest area overall. Figure 8 shows the percentage of protected areas in each IUCN Management
Category in 2016.

Figure 7: Trend in marine protected area coverage within the CAFF boundary, 1900-2016.

Figure 8: Distribution of marine protected areas across each of the six IUCN Management Categories, 2016.
mpa 3rd workshopThe Workshop on marine protected area (MPA) networks in a changing Arctic climate was held at the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE) on September 21-22, 2017.

The workshop was one in a MPA workshop series supporting PAME's work on studying best practices for linking area-based conservation measures to categories of Arctic marine biodiversity in support of the long-term conservation of the Arctic marine environment and associated services and cultural values. Key aspects of this collective work within the Arctic Council include ways to build and strengthen networks of MPAs in the context of climate change and ocean acidification, as well as incorporating traditional and local knowledge (TLK).

Click here to download the workshop report.

The aim of the workshop was to take stock of the current scientific understanding (including TLK) and identify important new research questions on MPA networks and how such networks, and other area-based measures, may be used to decrease the negative effects ofclimate change and ocean acidification and their interactions with other human induced stressors in the Arctic. The workshop also briefly touched on data availability related to these questions.

Outputs of the workshop will be published as:
  • meeting report that aims to contribute to the scientific basis for the potential of MPAs to meet the threats posed to Arctic ecosystems and livelihoods, and
  • a concise report card for targeted to decision makers and a wider audience.

 Name of presentation  Presenter   Download
SYKE - Finnish Environment Institute: Marine Research Center Paula Kankaanpää   Download
How Arctic Marine Protected Area Networks may reduce negative effects of climate change & ocean acidification Jessica Nilsson  Download
Arctic Climate Change Michael Tjernström   Download
Acidification of the Arctic Ocean, the basis for AMAP Arctic Ocean Acidification case studies Leif G. Anderson  Download
CBMP/ CAFF activities Update on work of relevance for PAME MPA work Tom Christensen  Download
Ten-step recipe for creating and managing effective marine protected areas Mark Carr  Download
Climate Change Report Cards - The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership Experience and Arctic Possibilities John Baxter and Dan Laffoley  Download
Protecting marine areas beneath Antarctic ice shelves: Special Areas for Scientific Study Susie Grant  Download
 The Journey towards a Weddell Sea Marine Protected Area Thomas Brey  Download
The Ross Sea Region MPA George M. Watters  Download
Networks, platforms and the winds of change: MPA's and climate change in the Baltic Sea (HELCOM) HELCOM  Download
Barents Sea MMBI Research Cruises Gennady Matishov  Download
Radioactive contamination issues in the Arctic Nadezhda Kasatkina  Download