New Regulations for Cruising in Greenland


By MarEx 2016-03-16 05:24:25

At the end of 2015 three new orders were issued regarding passenger vessels sailing in the waters of Greenland:

Act regarding Safe navigation for Greenland
Act regarding Activities and obligations of pilots around Greenland
Pilotage around Greenland

The new regulations are the result of a process that has been going on since 2012, during which time the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) and Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) have successfully managed to influence the proposed new regulations in a number of ways beneficial to operators, says AECO, without giving details.

The new regulations differentiate between vessels carrying more than 250 passengers and vessels carrying less. Importantly, says AECO, the regulations do not seem to impact operators of vessels carrying less than 250 passengers in any major way, and new requirements such as minimum ice class and mandatory pilotage requirements will only apply for passenger ships carrying more than 250.

The regulations applicable for passenger vessels carrying more than 250 passengers are similar to the international provisions of the Polar Code, but are supplemented in a number of areas such as: minimum ice class requirements, mandatory pilotage requirements, introduction of navigational zones and voyage planning / contingency plan requirements.

These are not unexpected regulatory changes covering Greenlandic waters, says Captain David “Duke” Snider, ice navigator and CEO of Martech Polar Consulting. “Like most of the Coastal Arctic States, Greenland is concerned about the potential increase in large capacity passenger vessels in their waters. There have been a number of close calls and these changes appear to focus mostly on the larger pax ships. Most of the measures relating to non large passenger vessels have not changed appreciably. These are prudent changes.”

There is no significant change to the geographic area to which these regulations apply, namely two zones, north and south, within the three nautical mile limit.

Section 4 - Special requirements for ships carrying more than 250 passengers is the section of most change, particularly related to the embarkation of pilots, says Snider. “Unless there is onboard an individual can prove that they have “the necessary qualifications and experience navigating the waters concerned,” pilots must now be embarked onboard ships carrying more than 250 passengers.  

“Similar “waivers” can apply in Canadian pilotage waters where for example, masters with sufficient local knowledge and experience within the regulated pilotage waters of the St. Lawrence need not require certified pilots onboard their ship,” says Snider. “Further in this section are specific requirements for the ship to have an ice class that are sufficient for the ice conditions in which it is operating.”

Experienced navigators who know the waters of Greenland, don’t think the law has much worth, says Danish ice navigator, Bjarne Rasmussen. “It is not a requirement that ships sailing on the west coast of Greenland must be ice-strengthened even though those waters can have many bergy bits year round. On the east coast of Greenland, where all summer and autumn there is hard, thick multiyear ice around the entire coast, the regulations only require C ice for the vessels. Over the years, even ships with ice class A have had major damage sailing in this multi-year ice.”