New Polar Code Rules Will Not Protect Antarctic Waters

The Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition today expressed concern over the lack of any new significant provisions in Part II of the Polar Code that would adequately protect the Antarctic environment from pollution. The London-based UN International Maritime Organization (IMO) is expected to adopt Part II of the Polar Code concerning pollution prevention towards the end of the week 11 – 15th May 2015.

Part II of the Code addresses pollution discharges from ships such as oil, chemicals, sewage and rubbish while at sea and is expected to strengthen existing regulations particularly in the Arctic. It will compliment Part I, which addresses safety of shipping in polar regions and was adopted towards the end of 2014. Both Parts of the Code are expected to take effect from the beginning of 2017.

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“If the International Maritime Organization (IMO) adopt Part II of the Polar Code focusing on pollution prevention as expected to this week, it will do little to provide any new protection for Antarctic waters”, said Sian Prior, Shipping Advisor to the Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition.”

Prior continued: “The Polar Code should require ships sailing in Antarctic waters to:

  • Completely stop discharging raw sewage. Under Part II, this will continue to be allowed beyond 12nm from land, ice shelf, or fast ice and as far as practicable from areas of ice concentration exceeding 1/10 (i.e. 1 in 10) ice cover.
  • Prevent the introduction of invasive alien species. Part II guidance on ballast water discharges in the Antarctic and global guidelines on hull fouling, but there no mandatory provisions, which would be possible to enact through the IMO.
  • Be adequately equipped and crews trained to deal with minor spills. While this may be carried out on some vessels, it not explicitly spelled out in the Code as has been previously suggested by an IMO member state. Inclusion of specific regulations in the Code could have involved tailoring existing requirements to the needs of polar waters”

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