The Polar Code and the Arctic Marine Environment: Assessing the Regulation of the Environmental Risks of Shipping

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Polar Law, Arctic Law, Fisheries Law, Shipping Law, Canada


The Polar Code adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) has established a new vessel-source pollution prevention standard for Arctic waters, as well as the Antarctic area. The Polar Code consists of mandatory rules and guidance provisions supplementing international rules to address a range of environmental risks posed by ships in polar operations. This article explores the scope of application of the Polar Code and its interface with other pertinent IMO instruments. The article comments on the limits of application of Polar Code standards in addressing pollution prevention and how they are further nourished, supplemented or facilitated by other IMOinstruments, both with respect to pollution prevention as well as other environmental risks posed by shipping in the Arctic context. The article identifies shortcomings and gaps and concludes with possible options for Arctic coastal States that may wish to raise environmental standards to mitigate particular risks.