Operating in high latitudes restricts the performance & availability of the standard navigation & communication systems, & may affect the quality of ice imagery information.

The Polar Code demands additional communications & navigation equipment for the vessels proceeding to high latitudes.

The list of important items mentioned in the code is as follows:


The goal of this chapter of the Polar Code is to ensure ships have adequate stability in both intact and damaged conditions. It has two principal requirements:

  • All ships must have enough stability in intact conditions when subject to the ice accretion
  • That new Category A & B ships must have adequate residual stability to sustain ice related damage


The goal of Chapter 5 of the Polar Code is to assure a ship can maintain its water & weather tight integrity while in a polar environment. It has three requirements.

For all ships:

  • The ship shall have effective means for averting or removing ice & snow accumulation around hatches & doors.

For the ships that is intended to operate in low air temperature:

  • Means shall be provided to avert freezing or excessive viscosity of the liquids to hydraulically operated hatches & doors.
  • Outside hatches & doors shall be designed to be operated by the personnel wearing heavy winter clothing including thick mittens. In practice, this means door handles & operating controls must be large enough to enable operation without requiring the operator to remove their mittens.


The goal of the Chapter 6 of the Polar Code is to assure a ship’s essential machinery systems maintain the functions necessary for the safety when operating in the polar environment.

Its requirements are divided into 3 groups: those for all the ships, those for the ships intended for operations in cold air temperature, & those for ships with ice strengthening.

For all the ships, essential machinery installations shall be protected from the adverse effects of:

  • ice & snow accumulation,
  • ice ingestion at seawater inlets,
  • snow ingestion at ventilation intakes,
  • seawater intake temperature, and
  • freezing & increased viscosity of liquids, gases & other essential substances.

For ships constructed to operate in low air temperatures, exposed essential machinery shall function at the ship’s Polar Service Temperature (PST). Essential machinery installations shall also consider:

  • the effects of cold & dense inlet air,
  • loss of performance of the batteries or other stored energy devices, &
  • materials for exposed machinery & their foundations, which shall be suitable for the PST.

For ice strengthened ships, essential machinery installations shall also consider loads enforced directly by the ship’s interaction with the ice.


The goal of the Chapter 7 of the Polar Code is to assure that fire fighting systems & appliances remain operable & effective under polar environmental conditions. This chapter sets conditions for all the ships & additional conditions for the ships intended to operate in low air temperature.

For all ships:

  • Fire fighting equipment & system components(including hydrants, hoses, nozzles, monitors, controls, isolating valves, pressure/vacuum valves, etc.) shall always be accessible & be prevented from freezing, snow & icing.
  • Fire mains & fire fighting system piping shall be protected from freezing & arranged so that exposed sections can be isolated & drained.
  • Fire pumps shall be in heated compartments, & sea suctions serving them shall be arranged to enable the clearing of ice accumulation. Extinguishing media shall be appropriate for the intended operating environment.
  • Fire fighting accesses shall be provided with anti-icing or de-icing protection.

For the ships intended to operate in low air temperature:

  • All fire safety systems & appliances shall be fully functional at the Polar Service Temperature (PST).
  • Exposed fire safety system components shall be made of materials appropriate for the PST.
  • All two way portable radio communication appliances shall be operable at the PST.
  • Fire extinguishers shall be prevented from freezing or certified for operation to the PST.


The goal of the Chapter 8 of the Polar Code is to provide for the safe escape, evacuation & survival in the polar environments. This chapter sets conditions for all ships, with additional requirements for the new ships & ships intended to operate in extended periods of darkness.

To ensure safe & immediate escape

  • All ships must have means to avert or remove ice & snow from the escape routes, muster & embarkation areas, survival craft & their launching appliances.
  • New ships must provide escape routes so as not to hinder passage by the persons wearing polar clothing.

To ensure safe evacuation off the ship

  • All ships must have the means to safely evacuate people & deploy survival craft & equipment when operating in ice covered waters.
  • All ships must be able to operate all the life saving appliances independently of the ship’s main source of power.

To enable survival after abandoning ship

  • All ships shall be provided enough resources to support survival after abandoning ship, whether to sea, to ice or to the land, for the maximum expected time of rescue. These resources shall provide a ventilated environment that will safeguard against hypothermia, sufficient food & water to sustain life, & the ability to communicate with rescue assets.
  • Everyone aboard shall be furnished with the thermal protection & personal survival equipment that suitably maintains core body temperature & prevents frostbite of extremities.
  • Survival craft &  group survival equipment shall provide effective protection against direct wind chill for all the persons aboard.
  • Lifeboats must be partially or totally enclosed type. Group survival appliances is required if there is a potential for abandonment onto the ice or to the land.
  • Where required, personal & group survival equipment will be provided for the 110% of the persons aboard, stowed in easily accessible locations in or near the survival craft. Containers for the group survival equipment shall be floatable & easily movable over the ice. For ships operating in extended periods of darkness, lifeboats shall be fitted with searchlights for detecting & identifying ice.


The goal of the Chapter 9 of the Polar Code is to prepare for the safe navigation in different polar environmental conditions, including when operating in the ice, darkness, high latitudes or with the icebreaker escort.

The navigational equipment & systems shall be designed, constructed & fitted to maintain their functionality under the expected environmental conditions in the area of the operation.

All ships operating in the polar waters must have means to receive up-to-date nautical & ice information & the ability to visually detect ice.

The Code requires all the ships to have:

  • the means of receiving & displaying information about ice conditions in its area of operation;
  • a clear view astern;
  • & two remotely rotatable, narrow beam search lights operable from the bridge to visually detect ice.

To ensure safe navigation under polar environmental conditions

  • All ships shall have means to avert the accumulation of ice on antennas used for the navigation & communication.
  • All ships shall have two non-magnetic means to decide & display their heading. Both means shall be independent & shall be connected to the ship’s main & emergency source of power.
  • Ships plying in the high latitudes(over 80°) shall be installed with at least one GNSS compass or equivalent, which shall be connected to the ship’s main & emergency source of power.
  • New ice strengthened ships shall have either 2 independent echo sounding devices or 1 echo sounding device with 2 separate, independent transducers.
  • New Category A & B ships shall have enclosed bridge wings to protect navigation equipment & personnel.

When moving in the group, a ship must be able to indicate when it is stopped to avoid being overrun by the following vessel.

  • Ships engaged in operations with an icebreaker escort must be installed with a manually controlled flashing red light visible from astern to indicate when the ship is stopped.
  • This light shall have a visibility range of at least 2 nautical miles, with the same arcs of visibility as a stern light.


The goal of the Chapter 10 of the Polar Code is to provide for the effective communications for the ships & survival craft during normal operation & in emergency situations. This chapter contains 3 groups of requirements.

For all the ships, the Polar Code requires equipment intended for:

  • ship-to-shore voice &/or data communications
  • tele-medical assistance services, & for receiving ice & meteorological information
  • ship-to-ship voice &/or data communications
  • both maritime & aeronautical two-way voice on-scene & search & rescue coordination communications

The limitations of the communications systems in high latitudes & the anticipated low temperature that is available at all points along the intended operating routes must be considered for the above systems.

For the ships designed to operate in low air temperature: The Polar Code requires additional communications equipment for the survival craft.

Rescue boats & lifeboats, when released for evacuation, shall each carry:

  • a device for transmitting ship-to-shore alerts. This could be complied with by a dedicated manual EPIRB for all rescue boats & lifeboats (in addition to the EPIRBs required by SOLAS Ch. IV).
  • a device for transmitting signals for the location, such as SART or AIS-SART for all rescue boats & lifeboats. Compliance with this requirement implies compliance with the SOLAS Regs. III/6.2.2 & IV/7.1.3.
  • on-scene radio communication device such as dedicated two-way VHF apparatuses for all rescue boats & lifeboats. These apparatuses can also be used for the compliance with SOLAS Regs. III/6.2.1 & IV/4 if clearly addressed in written procedures.

Life rafts shall each carry:

  • a device for transmitting signals for the location, such as dedicated SART or AIS-SART for all the rafts.
  • on-scene radio communication device such as dedicated two-way VHF apparatuses for all the rafts.

Icebreakers that provide escort services shall have a sound signalling system (horn); that faces astern to indicate manoeuvres to the following ships.