The Norwegian Maritime Administration (NMA) is to introduce new regulations applying to ships sailing in the territorial waters surrounding Svalbard next year.
This willensure that all passenger ships are constructed, equipped and operated in a way that provides satisfactory safety of life, health, property and environment on Svalbard. This applies to both Norwegian and foreign flag ships, the NMA said.
Theseregulations may involve conversions and modifications for ships not holding SOLAS certificates. For these ships, a five-year transitional arrangement has been established to give the companies the opportunity to plan the phase-in of new rules and, if applicable, spread the costs.
“The Government will work to ensure sustainable activity in and near Svalbard. We wish to enhance safety and security associated with increased ship traffic in the north. Therefore, it is important that we establish new rules for passenger ships operating in the waters of Svalbard. The rules are intended to prevent accidents and reduce the consequences of any accidents occurring in this remote and vulnerable area,” saidNorway’s Minister of Trade and Industry, Torbjørn Røe Isaksen.
“There are certain things that must be taken into account when regulating the shipping industry in Svalbard. Ship safety and security is top priority for us,” added Acting Director General of Navigation and Shipping, Lars Alvestad.
Through the NMA’s regulatory work, it has established a dialogue with the industry, particularly the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO). Meetings were arranged in both Oslo and Svalbard prior to the consultation. A number of useful comments were received, which led to adjustments of the proposal.
At the same time, the NMA said it had maintained a good dialogue with the Norwegian Coast Guard and the Governor of Svalbard, both providing generic feedback.
“The NMA feels that both the industry and public authorities have been constructive and shown an understanding for the safety level on which the new regulations are based,” Alvestad said.
Until now, requirements for passenger ships operating in the territorial waters surrounding Svalbard have been laid down in a guidance circular. The companies have been allowed to carry passengers in Svalbard having various certificates and safety standards. This circular will now be superseded by the new regulations, the NMA explained.
The Polar Code, which entered into force on 1st January, 2017, sets out binding global regulations for ships engaged on international voyages, which will operate in Polar waters. The international focus had encouraged the association to consider rules for passenger ships in NorwegianPolar waters.
For ships operating in Svalbard holding a Passenger Ship Safety Certificate in accordance with the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, the new regulations will have limited or few financial consequences.
These ships are already required to comply with the Polar Code, and the new regulations will mainly involve operational changes, the NMA explained.