Development of a New Legally Binding Instrument for Shipping in Antarctic Waters

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In November 2014, the first part of a new legally-binding mandatory instrument was adopted in response to the increasing numbers of ships operating in Arctic and Antarctic waters. Part I of the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters or “Polar Code” addressed the safety of shipping in polar waters and identifies the measures required over and above standard shipping regulations to ensure ships can operate safely. The Code will only apply to cargo vessels of 500GT or over and cruise ships in the first instance, but it is anticipated that further work will be undertaken to identify the needs of other vessels that already operate in these polar waters, in particular fishing vessels and private vessels. Part II of the Code which addresses pollution prevention from shipping, i.e. the impact that increased shipping in polar regions will have on the polar environment, is expected to be adopted in 2015 with the whole Code coming into force early in 2017. This article briefly sets out the history of the Code, summarises the motivation behind the development of the Code, and identifies a number of important developments for shipping in Antarctic waters and also identifies some of the gaps that will remain.

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