IMO Polar Code

To comply with the Polar Code, a ship and its crew must be certified for operations in polar waters. When in polar waters, the ship must be operated within the limitations stated on its Polar Ship Certificate and follow the operational requirements in the Code.

Regulatory requirements

Ship owner and operator need to take a number of actions for achieving compliance with the Polar Code requirements, including

  • carrying a Polar Ship Certificate on board,
  • developing and carry a polar water operation manual on board,
  • carrying the right training certificate from the respective flag state on board as required by the Polar Code § 12 and STCW, and
  • performing voyage planning before every voyage to polar waters following the instructions in the Polar Water Operational Manual (PWOM)as required in Polar Code §11.

PART II-A: On-board documentation concerning pollution prevention needs to be updated to take operation in polar waters into account, including requirements from MARPOL Chapters I, II, IV and V. 

Crew certification

Part I-A §12 of the Polar Code requires a ship owner to ensure that officers on SOLAS ships operating in polar waters have completed special training and have the necessary competence to carry out their duties.

These training and competence requirements will be implemented in an upcoming amendment to the STCW. The planned STCW amendment will require certain masters, chief mates and officers in charge of a navigational watch to obtain a certificate of competence from their licensing authority.

Ship owners and operators should contact the relevant mariner licensing authority for their crew to determine what they need to do.

Mariner licensing is not delegated to class societies. Therefore, DNV does not evaluate mariner training or issue certificates of competence as part of its Polar Code compliance activities for ship owners.

MARPOL certificates

An entry in the Supplement to the International Oil Pollution Prevention (IOPP) Certificate is required for a new Category A and B ship to certify that they comply with the additional structural requirements on tank protection in Part II-A § 1.2 of the Polar Code. No structural modifications are required of Category C ships or of existing Category A or B ships, therefore no entries in the IOPP Certificate are required. 

No other MARPOL certificates are affected by the Polar Code.

The Polar Ship Certificate

SOLAS ships operating in polar waters will require a Polar Ship Certificate. This is a new statutory certificate issued by a vessel’s flag administration or its authorized representatives.

The Certificate attests that the ship complies with the ship safety requirements in Part I-A of the Polar Code.

To obtain a Polar Ship Certificate, the owner must:

  • conduct an operational (risk) assessment of the ship and its intended operations in polar waters;
  • prepare a Polar Water Operational Manual (PWOM) specific to the ship, its arrangement and its intended operation in polar waters;
  • have the ship surveyed to verify its compliance with the relevant requirements of the Polar Code; and
  • apply to its flag administration or authorized representative for the Polar Ship Certificate.

DNV is an authorized representative for most flag administrations. We will assist you with the steps above and either issue the Polar Ship Certificate directly on behalf of your flag administration, or issue you a certificate of compliance.

Operational compliance – Safety

The Polar Code includes certain acts and prohibitions for ships while operating in polar waters. SOLAS ships must comply with all operational safety requirements in Part I-A of the Polar Code, including:

  • conducting a proper voyage plan,
  • operating the vessel within the capabilities and limitations stated on its Polar Ship Certificate;
  • monitoring snow and ice accumulation on the ship and taking appropriate measures to ensure it does not exceed stability values;
  • keeping safety equipment, escape routes and survival craft clear of snow and ice accumulation;
  • instructing passengers in the use of survival equipment and the actions to take in an emergency;
  • training the crew in the use of personal and group survival equipment; and
  • training each crew member in the procedures and equipment described in the Polar Water Operational Manual relevant to their assigned duties.

Operational compliance – Environmental protection

MARPOL ships must comply with operational environmental protection requirements in Part II-A of the Polar Code:
  • Any discharge of oil, oily mixtures or noxious liquid substances in polar waters is prohibited.
  • Discharge of sewage and garbage in polar waters is only allowed in line with the additional restrictions.
  • Operation in polar waters in the relevant record books, manuals, placards, and emergency and management plans must be noted as required by MARPOL.

Related downloads and links


Polar ship categories

Download the PDF and explore how the different Polar Ship categories are specified


Training requirements for ships operating in polar waters

Download the PDF providing an overview of requirements for different ship types