The following is a blog post by Lt. Chris Rabalais on Coast Guard Maritime Commons:
(WASHINGTON) — The Polar Code will enter into force on Jan. 1, 2017. The applicability of the Polar Code is more complex than other codes because it builds upon three conventions — SOLAS, several annexes of MARPOL and STCW. This post aims to clarify the applicability of the Polar Code’s safety provisions.
The Polar Code applies to vessels which operate in polar waters. These waters include both those in Antarctica (south of 60 degrees S) and those within the Arctic as specified in SOLAS Chapter XIV. The U.S. Arctic consists of all waters north of the 60th north parallel, starting from the western coast of Alaska, through the Etolin Straight toward Russia. The ports of Anchorage and Valdez, along with all other waters south and west of the Etolin Straight, are not within polar waters.
The safety provisions of the Polar Code are incorporated by SOLAS Chapter XIV which states that vessels “operating in polar waters, certified in accordance with Chapter I” must meet the Polar Code, Part I-A. All vessels on international voyages carrying one of the certificates listed in SOLAS Chapter I must comply with the Polar Code while in polar waters. U.S.-flag vessels on domestic voyages through polar waters, or to ports or places in the U.S. Arctic, do not need to meet the provisions of Part I-A. Vessels which are not required to comply with Part I-A are still encouraged to do so while operating in or near polar waters.
As the Polar Code’s entry into force date approaches, additional information will be posted on the Maritime Commons series on the Polar Code. The next post in this series will provide an overview of MARPOL applicability. The Coast Guard will continue to publish notable policy and regulatory updates in the Federal Register.