Polar Code environmental provisions set for adoption at IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee


arctic shipThe Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) meets for its 68th session next week (11th to 15th May), at IMO Headquarters in London.

Items on the agenda include the proposed adoption of the environmental part of the Polar Code and associated draft MARPOL amendments to make the Code mandatory; the implementation of the Ballast Water Management Convention; further work on air pollution and energy efficiency measures; and a proposal to extend the Great Barrier Reef and Torres Strait Particularly Sensitive Sea Area (PSSA) to parts of the Coral Sea.

The MEPC is expected to adopt the environmental requirements of the mandatory International Code for ships operating in polar waters (Polar Code), and the associated MARPOL amendments to make the Code mandatory. This follows the adoption, by the Maritime Safety Committee (MSC) in December 2014 of the Polar Code and related amendments to make it mandatory under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS).  The Polar Code is expected to enter into force on 1st January 2017.

The Polar Code covers the full range of design, construction, equipment, operational, training, search and rescue and environmental protection matters relevant to ships operating in waters surrounding the two poles.

Draft environmental provisions cover: Prevention of pollution by oil: discharge into the sea of oil or oily mixtures from any ship is prohibited. Oil fuel tanks must  be separated from outer shell; Prevention of pollution by noxious liquid substances: discharge into the sea of noxious liquid substances, or mixtures containing such substances is prohibited; Prevention of pollution by sewage; discharge of sewage is prohibited unless performed in line with MARPOL Annex IV and requirements in the Polar Code; and Prevention of pollution by garbage: discharge of garbage is restricted and only permitted in accordance with MARPOL Annex V and requirements in the Polar Code.

The adoption of the Polar Code and associated MARPOL amendments at MEPC 68 will complete the process to make the Code mandatory under both the SOLAS and MARPOL treaties.