Polar Voyage Planning and Support

Ships operate in the Polar Regions for a variety of reasons, including:

  • Supporting scientific research
  • Supporting oil and gas exploration
  • Fishing
  • Supplying northern communities
  • Transiting the Northwest and Northeast passages
  • Transporting production from northern resource extraction operations
  • Tourism

During these operations, ships encounter hazards that present elevated levels of risk and more severe consequences when accidents occur. Factors that exacerbate the situation include:

Sea ice and icebergs,

as they pose a risk to safety of navigation.

The environment, 

with respect to sensitivity to harmful substances and other environmental impacts and longer periods required for restoration.

Low temperature,

as it affects the working environment and human performance, maintenance and emergency preparedness tasks, material properties and equipment efficiency, survival time and performance of safety equipment and systems;

Extended periods of darkness or daylight,

as it may affect navigation and human performance;

High latitudes,

as it affects navigation systems, communication systems and the quality of ice imagery information;

Potential lack of ship crew experience

 in polar operations, with potential for human error;

Potential lack of suitable emergency response equipment,

with the potential for limiting the effectiveness of mitigation measures;

Rapidly changing and severe weather conditions,

with the potential for escalation of incidents

Vessel structure ice accretion,

as it may affect hull structure, stability characteristics, machinery systems, navigation, the outdoor working environment, maintenance and emergency preparedness tasks and malfunction of safety equipment and systems;


and possible lack of accurate and complete hydrographic data and information, reduced availability of navigational aids and seamarks with increased potential for groundings compounded by remoteness, limited readily deployable search and rescue facilities, delays in emergency response and limited communications capability, with the potential to affect incident response;

The operation of ships in the Polar Regions carry significant risks, such as:

⚠ Loss of life

⚠ Loss of property

⚠ Damage to the delicate polar environment

To help address these risks, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Marine Environment Protection Committee created the “International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters” (known as the Polar Code) that took effect on 1 January 2017.  The Polar Code was developed to supplement existing IMO instruments in order to increase the safety of ships' operation and mitigate the impact on people and the environment in the remote, vulnerable, and potentially harsh polar waters.

Polar Code Applicability





The Polar Code mandates that ships operating in the polar regions meet certain requirements.  Among other things, the Polar Code specifies a range of information that ships traveling in polar waters are required to access for planning and operations.  However, such information is not currently available in a form that is readily accessible to ships.

Polar View's Polar Code Service

The Polar View Polar Code Service aggregates information from a variety of sources and makes it available in a manner that recognizes the low and intermittent bandwidth conditions available to ships in the polar regions.  The service contributes to the safety of life and property, decreases pollution, protects sensitive ecological areas and marine mammals, and protects areas of cultural heritage and significance.  The service provides the following capabilities:

  • Coverage of all polar regions (Arctic and Antarctic)
  • Aggregated historical and contextual information concerning weather, ice conditions, and other ancillary data;
  • Near real-time information concerning weather and ice conditions;
  • Forecasted information concerning imminent weather and ice conditions;
  • Risk analysis tools; and
  • Delivery of the information in intermittent and low-bandwidth communications conditions.