IMO completes Polar Code, regulating Arctic and Antarctic shipping

Alaska Dispatch News

Starting in 2017, it will be illegal for shippers to dump oil, oily waste or noxious materials into Arctic or Antarctic waters.

That prohibition is part of a set of environmental rules and standards approved on Friday by the International Maritime Organization.

Friday’s action, which followed the approval in November of a set of marine safety standards for ships sailing in polar waters, cements what is now a comprehensive International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters — commonly known as the Polar Code.

Other provisions in the environmental standards approved by the IMO include a requirement for barriers to separate fuel tanks from ships’ outer hulls, a limit on discharge of sewage and a prohibition of trash disposal within close proximity to land or sea ice.

Those add to the standards that were approved in November, which range from ship design rules to a requirement that mariners avoid marine mammals.

The result of the year-long process is a major improvement for ship and environmental safety in the vulnerable and icy waters near the globe’s two poles, said Kevin Harun, Arctic program director for the conservation group Pacific Environment.

“We had a really good win on some things,” said Harun, who has been working on Polar Code issues and attended this and other IMO meetings in London.

Still, the code falls short of what Harun and other environmentalists and Northerners wanted.

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