The world looks to Norwegian expertise in handling the challenges and opportunities offered by polar regions
IMO’s Polar Code, which entered into force in January 2017, applies to vessels operating in Arctic and Antarctic waters and aims to both ensure vessel safety and protect the environment in polar regions, factoring in the extreme conditions and additional challenges these regions impose. Currently nine Norwegian-flagged vessels are certified under the Polar Code.
In February 2018, Norwegian Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries specialty director for international maritime regulations and polar affairs, Siv Christin Gaalaas gave a presentation on the Norwegian experience of the code’s implementation at the International Conference on Harmonized Implementation in Helsinki.
“With the diminishing of ice in polar areas we have seen an increase in polar tourism and furthermore we know the ocean has immense potential for new growth,” said Ms Gaalaas, adding that Norway anticipates more Arctic activity in the future with shipping playing a major role.
Noting that more than 80% of shipping traffic in the high north is in Norwegian waters, Ms Gaalaas said “As a responsible flag and coastal state it is important for us to ensure and balance the opportunities and challenges in a safe and environmentally friendly way.”
In 2016, the SARex 1 exercise was carried out to simulate a mass evacuation from a cruise ship in distress in Arctic Waters. In April 2017, this exercise was repeated to test whether improvements to rescue equipment made as a result of SARex 1 to bring it in line with the Polar Code requirement for a minimum survival time of five days, would substantially increase the probability of long-term survival.
Organised by DNV GL, the University of Stavanger and the Norwegian Coast Guard, participants came from Norwegian academia, the Norwegian Maritime Authority and equipment manufacturers Viking-Life (based in Denmark) and NorSafe (based in Arendal, Norway), who supplied a lifeboat and a life raft, respectively, for the exercise.
Participants were tested throughout the exercise in three areas – fine motor skills, gross motor skills and cognitive skills, as well as having heart rate, oxygen saturation and epitympanic temperature monitored. Participants also scored themselves on subjective factors such as thirst and hunger, discomfort, and fatigue.
A main finding, Ms Gaalaas said, was that improved lifesaving appliances on their own are not sufficient. In a survival situation multiple mechanisms interact, meaning survival is not just about having the right equipment, she noted – it’s also about physical and mental robustness, and being able to carry out required tasks for however long it takes to be rescued. The reports made following SARex 2 found that maintaining cognitive abilities and preventing the onset of fatigue are key, and a minimum level of comfort is required to ensure survival in a harsh environment. Other important areas for survival were identified as being air quality, sufficient space to move, ability to stay warm, calorie and water intake.
“We still need to continue our efforts in ensuring and harmonising an effective implementation of the Polar Code” at national and international levels, Ms Gaalaas said, adding “collective efforts to raise awareness and understanding of the Polar Code are needed.”
“We need to look in future more closely at the human element as well as training,” she said.
Norsafe, based in Arendal, has been building and developing life-saving appliances such as lifeboats since 1903. In anticipation of the code coming into force, it performed several full-scale tests in both simulated and realistic conditions to document product performance, mitigate potential risks and address lifecycle issues of its products that may be exposed to polar conditions. These included ways to prevent loss of warmth from a heated lifeboat in conditions of -30C and the performance of installed sprinklers in icy conditions.
The company has since received several orders for specialised polar equipment, including supplying Polar Code-compliant equipment for the British Antarctic Survey’s research vessel RRS Sir David Attenborough and for an Australian Antarctic Division supply and research vessel under construction by Damen Schelde Naval Shipbuilding.
Cruise companies look to Norway for polar expertise
The expedition cruise sector demands vessels that combine the luxury and comfort of a traditional cruise ship with the robust, sturdy, efficient designs required of vessels that navigate harsh polar conditions. Expedition cruise operators such as French cruise operator Ponant frequently look to Norwegian yards and designers to provide this expertise, as several orders made in the past year demonstrate.
The keel has been laid for Lindblad Expeditions’s first polar newbuild, National Geographic Endurance, designed by Ulstein, at the Crist shipyard in Gdynia, Poland. Set for delivery in Q1 2020, the vessel has a Polar Class 5 rating, meaning it can operate without hindrance at any time of the year in polar environments comprising medium first-year ice. It can provide accommodation for 126 guests. Endurance features Ulstein’s signature X-BOW hull design, which boosts fuel efficiency and stability in rough seas.
Hapag-Lloyd has chosen Vard to build its new expedition ship, Hanseatic Spirit, set for launch in Q2 2021. The vessel will join Hanseatic Nature and Hanseatic Inspiration, both structurally identical and likewise built at Vard’s shipyard. The vessels will have a Polar Class 6 rating, meaning they are capable of summer and autumn operation in medium first-year ice.
Vard has been chosen by French cruise operator Ponant to design and build a luxury polar expedition cruise vessel, Ponant Icebreaker, set for delivery in Q2 2021. The vessel will have an LNG/electric hybrid propulsion system and will produce zero emissions when in electric-hybrid mode. It is compliant with IMO’s 2020 regulations on SOx emissions and existing ECA requirements. Ponant Icebreaker is designed to carry passengers to destinations such as the geographic North Pole, the Weddell Sea, the Ross Sea and Peter I Island and has a polar class of PC2, meaning it is capable of year-round operations in moderate multi-year ice conditions.
|National Geographic Endurance||Hanseatic Spirit||Ponant Icebreaker|
|Operator||Lindblad Expeditions||Hapag-Lloyd Cruises||Ponant|
Hurtigruten backs Arctic HFO ban
Norwegian cruise, ferry and cargo firm Hurtigruten and the Norwegian Shipowners’ Association, among others, threw their weight behind the campaign for a ban on using heavy fuel oil (HFO) in Arctic waters, which is currently under development by IMO.
Hurtigruten, whose vessels have plied coastal routes in the west and north of Norway between Bergen and Kirkenes since 1893, in March encouraged other delegates at the polar conference session at Seatrade Cruise Global to back the campaign, with chief executive Daniel Skjeldam saying “I do not think that it is OK to bring in 5,000-bed cruise ships loaded with fuel oil” and calling for more regulations.
Mr Skjeldam also noted that under current regulations, no specific training is required to operate in polar regions, sayting it required a “completely different skill set… the weather can change very quickly… ice conditions change in minutes.”
Norway was joined by Finland, Germany, Iceland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden and the US in co-sponsoring the Clean Arctic Alliance’s proposal for a ban on HFO shipping in Arctic waters by 2021, put forward during the 72nd session of IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee in April 2018.