The Journal of Ocean Technology
The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has paved the way for the shipping industry’s safer future in the challenging waters of the Arctic (and the Antarctic) through the introduction of the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code). With that Code as the epicentre of discussion, the initial findings of the analysis in hand were presented at the International Association of Maritime Economists’ 2016 Conference. Considering that: a) a significant period of time has already elapsed since the Polar Code’s initial adoption; b) the Code entered into force on January 1, 2017; c) the number of ships operating in the Arctic will certainly increase in the future, especially when factoring in activities related to the Yamal LNG (an integrated project encompassing natural gas production, liquefaction, and shipping) and the upcoming Arctic LNG-2 projects, it is now time to provide a necessary update. It is shared knowledge that the Arctic landscape is being transformed at an unprecedented speed; the scientifically recorded decline of ice coverage in the region is creating significant new business opportunities. Shipping activities are directly affected by the many ambitious energy resource exploration projects already underway, as well as the opening of the so called “Arctic Passages.” A promise for shorter voyages from Asia to Europe and the Americas (and vice versa) is enticing; the decision, however, on whether to opt or not for one of these routes is complicated, with many varying aspects involved simultaneously. The answer regarding the economic viability of Arctic shipping is not yet fully understood and predictions for the near future indicate that even the most promising crossing, the Northern Sea Route, will remain of limited importance for the global maritime transport system. The Polar Code has certainly increased the level of safety for shipping activities performed in Arctic waters up to now; however, certain improvements/updates must be expected in the near future.