OCIMF, ICS publish guidance on developing a Polar Water Operational Manual

Oil Companies International Marine Forum (OCIMF) and International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) have published Guidelines for the Development of a Polar Water Operational Manual.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) Polar Code entered into force on January 1st 2017. It required ships operating in polar waters to submit a Polar Water Operational Manual (PWOM) to be able to obtain a Polar Ship Certificate.

ICS and OCIMF members consider that how a ship was operated in Polar waters, and especially in ice, was a critical aspect for safe operations.

The quality of the PWOM would have an impact on achieving safe operations. Appendix II of the Polar Code provided a model PWOM. OCIMF/ICS said that, while this was a useful starting point, ICS and OCIMF members had found that additional information was needed to develop a quality PWOM.

Ships operating in polar regions were exposed to a number of unique risks that challenged mariners, they said. These included frequent poor weather conditions, extended periods of daytime and night time, lack of availability of charts with up to date information, limitations to communication systems and navigational aids.

The remoteness of some areas could also make rescue or clean-up operations difficult and costly. The extremely low temperatures might reduce the effectiveness of the ship’s equipment, such as deck machinery, emergency equipment, sea suctions, and so on.

Sea ice could add loads to the hull and propulsion system.

ICS/OCIMF said that the PWOM should address these issues.

They said that the guidelines would help shipping companies and ship’s Masters to develop a PWOM suitable for individual ships, environmental conditions and operations.

The guidance is generic, and ship operators and Masters would need to tailor the PWOM to suit the specifics of the ship, environmental conditions and operations. This information paper only gives guidance for developing a PWOM and should not be considered as a complete PWOM, the publishers said.

The process of carrying out operational assessments and writing the PWOM would give the ship operator and Master insights into the risks associated with voyages in polar waters and a deeper understanding of the process.

The manual should include risk-based procedures on topics such as:

  • Voyage planning
  • The potential lack of reliable chart information
  • Methods for gathering weather information
  • Any additional equipment requirements
  • Any procedures required for machinery and equipment to ensure it remained operable in polar conditions
  • Emergency contact for the polar regions in which the vessel would be operating.