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Polar Code

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  • Last Updated : 11 Jul, 2022
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Recently the Union Ministry of Earth Sciences released India’s new Arctic Policy titled India and the Arctic: Building a Partnership for Sustainable Development in February 2022, which aims at scientific research, sustainable tourism, and mineral oil in the Arctic region and to promote gas exploration. India’s new Arctic policy rests on six pillars. As the melting of ice in the Arctic is not only an important indicator of climate change, but it is also affecting all countries.  Polar codes operate on blocks of symbols/bits and are therefore technically a member of the block code family. The polar code signifies its role by addressing the risk present in polar waters. 

What is Polar Code:

In coastal areas, adding to the harsh and extreme climate, the navigational characteristics of the region make it a challenging task for ships to navigate in these areas. The Polar Code was developed by International Maritime Organization (IMO) and its official name is ‘International Code of Safety of Ships in Polar Waters’. Its aim is to assist ships operating in polar waters to meet appropriate standards of maritime safety and pollution prevention.

This code comprises Parts I and II. Part I is divided into Part I-A, which includes Mandatory provisions on safeguards, and Part I-B containing recommendations for Security. Part II is divided into Part II-A, which contains mandatory provisions on pollution
prevention and Part II-B contains recommendations for the prevention of pollution.

Polar Code

Polar Code

Features of Polar Code:

  1. It has been developed to complement existing International Maritime Organization (IMO) equipment to enhance the safety of ship operations and reduce the impact on people and the environment in remote, vulnerable, and potentially hard polar waters.
  2. The Code acknowledges that polar water operations may impose additional demands on ships, their systems, and operations beyond the current conditions of the International Convention for the Protection of Life at Sea (SOLAS).
  3. The Code acknowledges that polar waters impose additional shipping requirements beyond the demands normally encountered. 
  4. The Code also recognises that arctic ecosystems and Arctic coastal communities may be exposed to human activities like ship operations.
  5. The relationship between additional safeguards and the protection of the environment is accepted as a safeguard taken to reduce the likelihood of an accident, and the environment will benefit to a great extent.
  6. The Code is intended to be applicable to both the Arctic and Antarctic as a whole, though the legal and geographical distinction between the two regions is taken into account.
  7. The main principles behind developing the Polar Code are to use a risk-based approach and to take a holistic approach to determine the scope and mitigate the identified risks. 

Sources of Hazards:

The Polar Code considers those hazards that could lead to high levels of risk with increased likelihood of occurrence, more serious consequences, or both. These hazards are,

  • Ice: It can affect hull structure, stability characteristics, machinery systems, navigation, outdoor working environment, maintenance and emergency preparatory work, and malfunction of safety equipment
  • Low temperature: It can affect the working environment and human demonstration, maintenance and emergency preparedness tasks, materials properties, and equipment efficiency.
  • Darkness or extended periods of daylight: It can affect navigation and human performance.
  • High latitudes:  it affects navigation systems, communication systems, and snow imagery information quality.
  • Rapidly changing and severe weather conditions:  The potential escalation of weather events related to harmful conditions and other Environmental impacts can be severe.


Polar Code derives from existing national systems, resulting from increased use of polar waters as shipping routes and areas of science and resource development, and as an important part of the global ecosystem. It is intended to facilitate future research and development and polar-class ships are fortified for sea and glacial ice.


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