Photo: Ekaterina Ustinova
Photo: Ekaterina Ustinova

Spotlight on safe and environmentally sound Arctic shipping with record attendance at the 5th annual meeting of the Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum

Today, the Arctic Council’s Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum concluded its fifth annual meeting. Over 180 registrants representing nearly 90 different entities and organizations participated in the three-day meeting. The theme this year was "The Polar Code: Nearly Five Years On", reflecting both the length of time that the International Maritime Organization’s International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code) has been in force and the experience gained in implementing it during that time.

In opening the meeting, Dr. Vitaly Klyuev, Director of the Department of the State Policy for Maritime and Inland Waterways Transport, Ministry of Transport of the Russian Federation, emphasized that “the Forum contributes to the consistent and uniform implementation of the Polar Code by all parties which in turn is a prerequisite for safe and environmentally sound shipping in the Arctic.”

Addressing the Forum, Dr. Heike Deggim, the International Maritime Organization’s Director of Maritime Safety, said: “We greatly value the opportunity to participate in this Forum given its relevance for the ongoing polar work in IMO. I would like to express my gratitude to the organizers of the Forum who have worked hard to establish and run the Web Portal, providing vital information, in quite a leading and unique way, which sets an example for others, to enhance and facilitate IMO’s regulatory work.”

Run by the Arctic Council’s Working Group on the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME), the Forum was established in 2017 by the eight Arctic States (Canada, the Kingdom of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Russian Federation, Sweden, and the United States) to raise awareness and promote the effective implementation of the Polar Code. The Forum also draws on experience from Antarctica, with representation from that polar region.

The Forum advances awareness and effective implementation of the Polar Code in several ways, primarily through its annual meeting and a dedicated Web Portal - accessible at - that it maintains and regularly upgrades with authoritative information from intergovernmental bodies and widely recognized industry, non-governmental, indigenous, and academic organizations, pertaining to each and every provision of the Polar Code. This information is of vital interest to those involved in safe and environmentally sound Arctic shipping, including shipowners and operators, regulators, classification societies, marine insurers, indigenous and local communities, amongst others. Forum Participants heard how usage of the Web portal increased by 20.6 % in the past year despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

Presentations by more than 25 experts at the meeting addressed a wide range of topics, including ongoing efforts to advance harmonized interpretations of the Polar Code, reports on progress made in providing search and rescue and emergency marine response, updates on ice navigation and ice pilotage services, and the latest decision support and communication tools available to facilitate safe and environmentally sound navigation and voyage planning in the Arctic. Highlights were the live presentation from the bridge of the Swedish Icebreaker Oden in which the Ship’s Master and its Chief Officer described operating conditions in the High North as far as the North Pole, and a presentation by Russia’s Northern Sea Route Administration highlighting the significant increase in tonnage using the route.

Russia’s Sergey Tolmachev, the Forum Chair and Counsellor, Mission of the Russian Federation to the IMO said: “Over the years, the Forum and its Web portal have become an excellent platform for sharing expertise and knowledge on the Polar Code, and together we will be able to make it even more useful for everyone interested in Arctic shipping.​”

The meeting took place virtually from 16-18 November. For further information about the Forum’s 5th Meeting, the Agenda, its Participants, and presentations at the meeting, please visit the 5th Annual Meeting webpage.