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Requirements for Crews and Ice Navigators Operating on NWP

(by Karl Magnus Eger)


The ASPPR have set out certain control requirements also when it comes to crews and ice navigators. The owner or the master of a ship proposing to navigate within any zone may apply for an Arctic Pollution Prevention Certificate from a Canadian marine inspector or from an examiner of a classification society outside of Canada, to indicate that the ship and the master complies with the regulations when operating in Canadian waters1 .  An inspector may issue an arctic pollution prevention certificate to the owner or master of a ship that is within Canadian waters. Where the owner or master of a ship fails to comply with the requirements “(...) without reasonable cause, the arctic pollution prevention certificate issued to him in respect of that ship is invalid if the ship navigates within a zone1 .

Like the IMO Guidelines and the Russian Guide to Navigation through the NSR, the Canadian ASPPR also addresses the concept of ice navigators. Unlike the Canadian legislation, the Russian legislation and the IMO Guidelines does not require any certificate in order to get sailing permission. However, according to ASPPR, no tanker is allowed to navigate in any zone without the services of a qualified ice navigator. The ASPPR define qualified ice navigator as having;

“(…) served on a ship in the capacity of master or person in charge of the deck watch for a total period of at least 50 days, of which 30 days must have been served in Arctic waters while the ship was in the conditions that required the ship to be assisted by an ice-breaker or to make manoeuvres to avoid concentrations of ice (...1 )

This is interesting when comparing the Canadian definition of ice navigators with the Russian definition. The Russian definition requires experience of steering vessels in ice conditions explicitly on the NSR for not less than 15 days. Unlike the Russian requirements, the Canadian legislation does not require any explicit experience, exclusively within the NWP. Furthermore, it refers to experience from ice manoeuvring in Arctic conditions on a general basis. However, these issues are now raised among both the Canadian Coast Guard and Transport Canada, with the intention to state that ice manoeuvring in the NWP and the NSR presents different challenges.

Furthermore, the complex archipelago, narrow straits, high tides, currents, variety of draft conditions in combination with a complex seasonal ice regime, can represent major challenges for even the most experienced ice navigator2 . For example, an ice navigator with extensive experience from the Baltic Sea is not necessarily well qualified to navigation along the NWP or NSR. In addition, an ice navigator with extensive experience from the NSR is not necessarily qualified for navigation on the NWP, since the two transport corridors represent different geographical areas in combination with different ice characteristics. This means that an ice navigator can meet unique risks and challenges in the different passages. One example that illustrates this complexity is the sinking of the ship Explorer in 2007. Explorer sank after hitting ice while sailing in Antarctica. Although this example is taken from Antarctic waters, it illustrates the different ice conditions you meet when navigating in various ice regimes, and thus it is interesting also in an Arctic perspective. According to the Explorer Investigation Report, the ice navigator observed multiyear ice, but the ice was much older than first assumed. In addition, the master of the Explorer was very experienced in Baltic waters, but he was unfamiliar with the type of ice he encountered in Antarctic waters3 .

This type of previous accidents illustrates why explicit training on the NSR is necessary, such as the Russian regulations requires. It might also encourage the Canadian authorities to require training for masters in the NWP explicitly, in order to get permission to navigate. And not only referring to experience from Arctic waters in general, such as the legislation currently requires. Interestingly, Transport Canada pointed out that in cases where the captain or ice navigator is not familiar with navigation in a certain area of the NWP, a local adviser is often brought on board in order to make safe operation4 . This emphasize why specific NWP navigation training is needed.


  •  1. ASPPR (1978). Arctic Shipping Pollution Prevention Regulations, Canada 1978
  •  2. Interviews/Conversations: Canadian Coast Guard 14 January (2010)
  •  3. Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MS_Explorer
  •  4. Interviews/Conversations: Transport Canada, 09 & 15 January (2010)

Karl Magnus Eger, 2010, Requirements for Crews and Ice Navigators Operating on NWP, CHNL.©