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Adventures in polar waters

Exploration trips to polar regions require specific vessel design features to mitigate risks specific to Arctic waters. Knowing how to apply the Polar Code is crucial.

The new generation of luxury yachts are now being geared towards sailing around the globe without frequent stops. These round trips also include the stunning nature of polar waters. Some of the latest yachts are being equipped with larger fuel tanks and reinforced hulls capable of “breaking” through ice, enabling Arctic expeditions in comfort and style.

Safe Arctic operations

A remote and inhospitable environment like the Arctic combined with limited infrastructure makes safety an absolute priority. Many potential hazards in the polar regions differ little from those in other sea regions: collision with another vessel or offshore installation, fire and explosion hazards, structural failure, grounding, an accidental oil spill. But the consequences of any individual incident in Arctic waters could be much more serious.

Added regional hazards such as sea ice, topside icing, low temperatures, darkness and fog change the risk equation. Many of these factors were considered in the development of the IMO Polar Code, a set of internationally agreed minimum standards for ice operation which has been in force since January 2017.

“Apart from SOLAS, most of the major yacht codes make direct reference to the IMO Polar Code. Applying the philosophy and requirements of the IMO Polar Code should guide yacht owners towards adapting to the expected polar conditions to provide a safe environment for the persons on board and to protect the environment,” Martin Richter, DNV GL’s Ship Type Expert Yachts, points out. The overall goal of the IMO Polar Code is to identify additional hazards which may be experienced during a voyage through the Arctic, and to identify and implement the most efficient measures to mitigate the associated increased risks.

“For those who plan to operate in polar waters, our long experience of different ship types, operations and equipment enables us to provide expert support and make sure that the safest, most practical and most economically feasible solutions are implemented,” explains Morten Mejlænder-Larsen, Director, Arctic Operation and Technology, DNV GL. Relevant additional hazards for the planned operations should be identified in the early design phase so the best vessel-specific solutions can be selected.

“The code requires that a Polar Code Operational Assessment involving the owner, yard and designer is carried out early in the design phase to establish a common understanding of the requirements of the Polar Code and agree additional relevant hazards. Since the code is goal-based, it is crucial to determine which requirements of the Polar Code apply so that more concrete calculations and quotations can be carried out and costly design changes at a later time are avoided,” Mejlænder-Larsen explains.

“At the end of these workshops our customers know exactly what part of the code applies to them and what kind of capabilities they have to demonstrate. With this knowledge at hand, the designer and yard can develop a vessel that complies with the code so the Polar Ship Certificate issued at the end of the process matches the operational profile the owner had in mind at the beginning. The workshops help all parties involved to clarify the initial questions related to the Polar Code,” Mejlænder-Larsen points out. “For expedition vessels and large yachts, it is also essential to provide additional crew and passenger training to make sure everyone on board is aware of the risks particular to the Arctic environment.”

With the overall objective of the code to identify the additional hazards polar waters pose for the planned operation, estimate the associated risks, and find appropriate mitigating measures, yachts can operate in the Arctic in a manner that is similar to operation in non-polar waters.

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Morten Mejlænder-Larsen

Morten Mejlænder-Larsen

Director - Arctic Operation and Technology

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