Polar Code SOLAS applicability to US flag ships
USCG has issued a policy letter which aims to clarify the applicability of the Polar Code’s safety provisions. USCG explains that the applicability of the Polar Code, which enters into force on January 1st 2017, is more complex than other Codes because it builds upon three conventions – SOLAS, several annexes of MARPOL and STCW.
The Polar Code applies to vessels which operate in polar waters. These waters include both those in Antarctica (south of 60oS) and those within the Arctic as specified in SOLAS Chapter XIV. The U.S. Arctic consists of all waters north of the 60th north parallel, starting from the western coast of Alaska, through the Etolin Straight toward Russia. The ports of Anchorage and Valdez, along with all other waters south and west of the Etolin Straight, are not within polar waters.
The safety provisions of the Polar Code are incorporated by SOLAS Chapter XIV which states that vessels “operating in polar waters, certified in accordance with chapter I” must meet the Polar Code, Part I-A. All vessels on international voyages carrying one of the certificates listed in SOLAS Chapter I, must comply with the Polar Code while in polar waters. U.S. flag vessels on domestic voyages through polar waters, or to ports or places in the U.S. Arctic, do not need to meet the provisions of Part I-A. Vessels which are not required to comply with Part I-A are still encouraged to do so while operating in or near polar waters.