Navigating Arctic waters with the Arctic Council and the International Maritime Organization 27 November 2020Agreements and cooperationOceanProtection of the Arctic Marine EnvironmentInternational Maritime Organization (IMO) Through the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment Working Group, the Arctic Council and IMO work together to encourage implementation of the Polar Code. Now in its fourth iteration, the Council’s Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum brings private and public sector together to shape the future of Arctic shipping. Set sail in Northern waters and starting around 60° N, you will notice that the sea you face is much different than that of southern waters. As you navigate further North, satellite communications become limited, navigating icebergs becomes a new priority task and the risk of an accident occurring in the extreme, temperamental waters increases significantly. Not to mention, if anything goes wrong, the vast remoteness and lack of infrastructure in small coastal Arctic towns is another concern. These risks are why not just anyone can set sail in Arctic waters. Enter the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Working Group of the Arctic Council and the International Maritime Organization (IMO). Through PAME, the Arctic Council and IMO cooperate to help ensure the safety, security and environmental performance of Arctic shipping. A need for Arctic shipping regulations The Arctic is undergoing extraordinary environmental and developmental changes. A home to Indigenous peoples for many generations, the Arctic is environmentally and ecologically sensitive, experiences extreme weather and climatic events and is rich in both flora and fauna and natural resources. Marine access in the Arctic Ocean is changing quickly as sea ice extent reduces and thins – bringing significant implications for longer seasons of ship navigation and new access to previously difficult to reach coastal regions. That – combined with the Arctic’s storehouse of untapped natural resources, high commodity process and growing worldwide demand – has brought a complex set of users to Arctic waters. In recognition of these critical changes, PAME released its Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment in 2009. Back then, there were no uniform, international standards for ice navigators or for the safety and survival of seafarers in Arctic conditions. PAME’s assessment recommended that Arctic States cooperatively support efforts at the IMO to augment global ship safety and pollution prevention conventions with specific Arctic requirements. This was further reiterated by Arctic Council Ministers in the Iqaluit Declaration (2015) and the Fairbanks Declaration (2017). A new chapter began when the IMO adopted the Polar Code and related amendments to make it mandatory under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) and the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL). When Polar Code entered into force on 1 January 2017, it marked a historical milestone in IMO’s work to protect ships, seafarers and passengers in the harsh environment and ecosystems of the Arctic.