Jurisdiction Over Ice-Covered Areas and the Polar Code: An Emerging Symbiotic Relationship?

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Polar Code, UNCLOS, Canada


The recent adoption of the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code),with effect from 1 January 2017 heralds a new era in polar shipping regulation. The implementation needs of the Polar Code are expected to challenge state parties to the international maritime law conventions concerned, most especially the coastal states of the Arctic Ocean, which have domestic regulatory regimes for shipping in their northern waters justified on the basis of Article 234 of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.The author discusses the relationship between the Article 234 power, the Polar Code and existing national legislation governing polar shipping, and the compliance expectations for Arctic coastal states, in particular for Canada and the Russian Federation. The article concludes with observations on the balance struck between universality and uniformity in international maritime law on the one hand, and the unilateralism under Article 234 on the other.