Personnel and Maritime Training for Arctic Operations

(from AMSA Report 2009)


Personnel and Maritime Training

Considering the Arctic operational environment and the lack of infrastructure, safe navigation in the Arctic is often dependent on the skills of a limited number of seasoned northern mariners. The Arctic offers significant navigational challenges, especially to the uninitiated. For decades, safe navigation has rested in the hands of a small number of experienced officers in a few countries. Their training has mostly been on-the-job with relatively little in the way of formal ice navigation education except within the limited regular navigation curriculum. With increased shipping in the Arctic, the need for skilled mariners will increase. Earlier melt periods and later freeze-ups will allow a greater amount of multi-year ice and ice of land origin (iceberg fragments such as growlers and smaller pieces called bergy bits) into the shipping lanes of the Northern Sea Route and the Northwest Passage, as well as in Greenland waters. It should be noted that less ice does not mean less danger. Understanding of the special conditions influencing navigation in the Arctic is crucial to the maintenance of a safe shipping regime.

The IMO’s Guidelines for Ships Operating in Arctic Ice-covered Waters and the International Convention on Standards of Training, Certification and Watchkeeping of Seafarers (STCW ’95) call for specialized training for mariners in Arctic waters. The guidelines define an ice navigator as “any individual who, in addition to being qualified under the STCW Convention, is especially trained and otherwise qualified to direct the movement of a ship in ice-covered waters. It also states: “The Ice Navigator should have documentary evidence of having satisfactorily completed an approved training program in ice navigation. Such a training program should provide the knowledge, the understanding and proficiency required for operating a ship in Arctic ice-covered waters, including recognition of ice formation and characteristics; ice indications; ice maneuvering; use of ice forecasts, atlases and codes; hull stress caused by ice; ice escort operations; ice-breaking operations and effect of ice accretion on vessel stability.” It also provides guidelines for companies operating in Arctic ice-covered waters to develop a training manual, including the development and inclusion of drills and emergency instructions, emphasizing changes to standard procedures made necessary by operations in Arctic ice-covered waters. These drills and emergency instructions would be incorporated into the routine vessel operational training.

The STCW includes mandatory training requirements for passage planning and ice navigation in ice-covered waters. This section also authorizes the use of approved training simulators to achieve the stated training requirements. The concept of an officer experienced in navigation in ice, as well as the qualifications required, forms part of various national legislation and rules among northern countries such as the Canadian Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act and its associated regulations: the Joint Industry Coast Guard Guidelines for the control and operation of oil tankers and bulk chemical carriers in ice control zones of Eastern Canada.

The Russian Federation has a modern Arctic maritime training regime concentrated in the following marine educational centers: the Admiral Makarov State Maritime Academy in St. Petersburg; the Admiral Nevelskoy Far East State Maritime Academy in Vladivostok; the regional center of continuing professional education at the Captain Voronin Maritime College in Arkhangelsk; the “MARSTAR” Academy in St. Petersburg; and the Primorsk Shipping Corporation training Center in Nakhodka.

These centers train prospective Arctic navigators using the “Preparation for Navigation in Ice Conditions” course developed by the Makharov Training Center. These courses are designed around three subdivisions: theoretical training, simulator training and practical training onboard a vessel. The courses follow the requirements expressed in the IMO STCW 78/95 Requirements; the IMO’s Guidelines for Ships Operating in Arctic Ice-covered Waters and finally those specified by the Russian Rules of Navigation on the Seaways of the Northern Sea Route.

The course trains officers in all aspects of operations in ice-covered waters, through theoretical and simulator-based training including: the preparation and planning for voyages in ice-covered waters; operating, navigating, maneuvering and escorting ships in Arctic icecovered waters, including recognition of ice formation and its characteristics; features of maneuvering in ice of different density and thickness; communication between cargo vessels and icebreakers; and familiarization with emergency and search and rescue operations.

The prospective navigator must follow a practical regime composed of two phases that reinforces the theoretical and simulated aspects of the training already received, as well as knowledge passed on from more experienced operational personnel. These include practical navigation training where the student is taken onboard as a bridge officer trainee and is supervised by the navigating officers; and practical deck training where the student is taken onboard as a regular member of the ship’s crew and studies features of ice operations from their point of view.

Certification of Ships’ Officers and Crew

Maritime administrations around the globe are tasked with the certification process, which is linked to the maritime licensing programs for most countries. Several areas, such as vessel security officers, radar navigation and pilotage, have been fully addressed with special endorsements on individual licenses. Certification for tanker operations, vessel classification, vessel design and equipment for vessels operating in ice-covered waters has been established. Several regulations address oil spill response and environmental issues. Various maritime training institutions are developing, or have developed, ice navigation courses, employing full mission bridge simulators and associated software products. The IMO has created a program of model training to assist institutions developing ice navigation courses with an emphasis on meeting STCW requirements. Several countries have instituted courses, including Finland and the Russian Federation, for the Baltic region, as well as Norway and Argentina. Canada has developed a model course using a simulator at the Marine Institute in St. John’s, Newfoundland. While these classes begin to address the deficit in standardized ice navigation training, international harmonization is still necessary in order to provide the next generation of qualified northern navigators.


    Arctic Council, 2009, Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment (AMSA), Arctic Council.©