10/20/2014: IMO approves draft Polar Code environmental requirements

Written by Lt. Andrew Gibbons

Last week, the International Maritime Organization, or IMO, approved amendments to the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships, or MARPOL, which will create mandatory environmental requirements in the Polar Code for ships operating in Arctic and Antarctic waters. This was a significant step toward finalization and adoption of the Polar Code.

The environmental requirements of the Polar Code build on existing requirements in MARPOL, including existing Antarctic special area requirements. With regard to oily mixtures and noxious liquid substances, the draft requirements extend existing discharge prohibitions for the Antarctic special area to all ships operating in the Arctic. The draft Polar Code also introduces new discharge restrictions for sewage, food waste and cargo residues in both Arctic and Antarctic waters. In addition, based on the ship’s polar ice classification, tanks holding oil, oily mixtures and noxious liquid substances must meet additional tank protection requirements -located away from the outer shell of the ship – to further mitigate the accidental release of pollutants from ice damage.

Based on last week’s approval, the IMO will now circulate the amendments for six months, and consider them for adoption at the Maritime Environmental Protection Committee meeting in May, 2015.

Next month, the Maritime Safety Committee is expected to finalize and adopt the safety related amendments and requirements of the Polar Code. These safety requirements were approved by the IMO this past May.

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