Gas Code, Polar Code Enter into Force


Published Jan 3, 2017 4:29 PM by The Maritime Executive

The International Gas Code entered into force on January 1, along with the Polar Code, affecting both new and existing ships and the seafarers working on them. 

The International Code of Safety for Ships using Gases or other Low-flashpoint Fuels (IGF Code) aims to minimize the risk to ships, their crews and the environment, when gas and other low-flashpoint fuels are used.

The IGF Code takes a goal-based approach, with goals and functional requirements forming the basis for the design, construction and operation of ships using this type of fuel.

Amendments to SOLAS require new ships using gases or other low-flashpoint fuels to comply with the requirements of the IGF code, which contains mandatory provisions for the arrangement, installation, control and monitoring of machinery, equipment and systems using low-flashpoint fuels, focusing initially on LNG. 

The amendments to SOLAS chapter II-1 (Construction – Structure, subdivision and stability, machinery and electrical installations), include amendments to Part F Alternative design and arrangements, to provide a methodology for alternative design and arrangements for machinery, electrical installations and low-flashpoint fuel storage and distribution systems; and a new Part G Ships using low-flashpoint fuels, to add new regulations to require ships constructed after the entry into force to comply with the requirements of the IGF Code. Related amendments to chapter II-2 and Appendix (Certificates) also enter into force. 

Amendments to the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW), and STCW Code include new mandatory minimum requirements for the training and qualifications of masters, officers, ratings and other personnel on ships subject to the IGF Code. 

Polar Code

The mandatory Polar Code, for ships operating in Arctic and Antarctic waters, also entered into force on January 1, 2017. Its requirements go above and beyond those of existing IMO conventions such as MARPOL and SOLAS, which are applicable globally and will still apply to shipping in polar waters.

The Polar Code sets out mandatory standards that cover the full range of design, construction, equipment, operational, training and environmental protection matters that apply to ships operating in the waters surrounding the two poles.

Protective thermal clothing, ice removal equipment, enclosed lifeboats and the ability to ensure visibility in ice, freezing rain and snow conditions are among the Code’s mandatory safety requirements. The regulations extend to the materials used to build ships intended for polar operation, and all tankers under the Code will have to have double hulls. From an environmental perspective, the code prohibits or strictly limits discharges of oil, chemicals, sewage, garbage, food wastes and many other substances.

The Polar Code includes mandatory provisions covering safety measures (part I-A) and pollution prevention measures (part II-A) and additional guidance regarding the provisions for both (parts I-B and II-B). The environmental provisions of the Polar Code apply both to existing ships and new ships.
The Code will require ships intending to operate in the defined Arctic waters and the Antarctic area to apply for a Polar Ship Certificate, which would classify the vessel as either:

• Category A - ships designed for operation in polar waters in at least medium first-year ice, which may include old ice inclusions

• Category B - a ship not included in category A, designed for operation in polar waters in at least thin first-year ice, which may include old ice inclusions

• Category C - a ship designed to operate in open water or in ice conditions less severe than those included in categories A and B.

Before receiving a certificate, a ship would require an assessment, taking into account the anticipated range of operating and environmental conditions and hazards it may encounter in the polar waters.
Ships will need to carry a Polar Water Operational Manual, to provide the owner, operator, master and crew with sufficient information regarding the ship's operational capabilities and limitations in order to support their decision-making process.

Mandatory minimum requirements for the training and qualifications of masters and deck officers on ships operating in polar waters were adopted by IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee in November 2016. They will become mandatory under STCW from July 1, 2018.

Other New Requirements

A number of other amendments also enter into force on January 1, 2017:

•    Amendments to SOLAS regulations II-2/4.5 and II-2/11.6 clarify the provisions related to the secondary means of venting cargo tanks in order to ensure adequate safety against over- and under-pressure in the event of a cargo tank isolation valve being damaged or inadvertently closed, and SOLAS regulation II-2/20 relating to performance of ventilation systems.

•    Amendments to regulation 12 of MARPOL Annex I, concerning tanks for oil residues (sludge), update and revise the regulation, expanding on the requirements for discharge connections and piping to ensure oil residues are properly disposed of.

Also, from 1 January 2017, STCW certificates must be issued, renewed and revalidated in accordance with the provisions of the 2010 Manila Amendments. However, due to concern that some Parties may not be able to issue STCW certificates in accordance with the requirements of the Convention by January 1, IMO’s Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in November 2016 issued a circular which agrees that a ‘practical and pragmatic’ approach should be taken during inspections, for a period of six months (i.e. until July 1, 2017), to allow flexibility in cases where seafarers are unable to provide certificates that were issued in compliance with the 2010 Manila Amendments.