iicwgAll of the national ice services have joined together in the International Ice Charting Working Group (IICWG). Formed in 1999, the IICWG is a recognized collaboration of national ice services promoting standardization, product development, and best practices to most effectively serve their collective clients. Shipping, by its very nature, is international and the IICWG believes that mariners should have access to a consistent quantity, quality, and presentation of ice information when travelling among multiple national regimes. To that end, the IICWG has worked continuously to implement standard notation, symbology, and “look-and-feel” for ice charts, including electronic representation for Electronic Navigation Chart Systems (S-411). The IICWG collaborates closely with the Joint Commission on Marine Meteorology (JCOMM) Expert Team on Sea Ice (ETSI) to codify these standards and best practices in publications such as the Sea Ice Nomenclature (WMO-No.259), Sea-Ice Information Services in the World (WMO- No.574) and the Manual for Marine Meteorological Services (WMO-No.558). To help ensure a consistently high level of quality, the IICWG and ETSI conduct regular Ice Analyst Workshops to share training opportunities among its member services. On behalf of the IICWG and ETSI, the German Ice Service operates the Ice Logistics Portal which hosts ice charts in various formats from all of the national ice services as a convenient single point of access for mariners.

There are many different types of ice charts intended for varying uses. Climatological, or historical, ice charts depict “normal” ice conditions mainly for advance planning of maritime operations. Ice analysis charts show current ice conditions in a given area and are the basic information aimed at enhancing marine safety for mariners in ice-frequented waters. Depending on need and resources, these are generally produced daily or a few times a week. Finally, concise ice information (commonly ice edge and iceberg positions), along with weather information, is provided to mariners worldwide at least daily by the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) for the regions of the Arctic METAREAs XVII-XXI and adjacent areas of METAREAS I, IV and XII. Ice analysis charts are based primarily on satellite imagery received in near real-time at the ice services. Expert ice analysts at the ice services analyze the images, calibrate them with other data such as all-important ship reports, extrapolate to fill gaps in the satellite coverage and make adjustments for time differences between images to prepare the ice analysis charts. To supplement ice analysis charts, some ice services produce forecast ice charts showing the ice conditions expected in a few days. The IICWG is actively promoting the use of POLARIS, a risk assessment tool for Polar mariners, by ensuring that ice charts include the information needed for its application as well as assessing its applicability to the Southern Ocean. The IICWG member services have worked with the Nautical Institute to help define training requirements as well as providing curricula and training materials related to ice navigation.

More information:

  • The Ice Logistics Portal: Operated by the German Hydrographic Service, this site provides convenient access to current ice charts produced by all of the national ice services as well as background information.
  • The Polar View data page: Operated by the British Antarctic Survey, this site provides freely available satellite data and automated ice information products
  • IICWG website: Operated by the National Snow and Ice Data Center, this site provides contact information for the national ice services as well as general information about ice information
  • JCOMM website: Provides standards and information publications on sea ice.
sea ice data header

Ice floating in the ocean is what makes navigation in the Polar Regions unique and challenging. Whether it is sea ice, formed of frozen sea water, icebergs calved from coastal glaciers, or river ice near the shore, floating ice presents a significant navigational hazard. The Polar Code recognizes this: “Ships shall have the ability to receive up-to-date information including ice information for safe navigation”.

References to ice are numerous throughout the text of the Polar Code but the bottom line is that, in addition to knowing how to manage their vessel in ice, masters sailing in the Polar Regions must plan their passages with full knowledge of the ice conditions to be expected and make tactical navigation decisions based on up-to-date ice information. This is where the ice charting services of the world offer an invaluable service to Polar mariners.

All of the Arctic states have national ice services that provide routine monitoring and charting of the ice conditions in support of marine safety. Within the Arctic Polar Code region, Canada, Denmark (Greenland), Norway, Russia, and the United States all have sophisticated ice information programs that incorporate large volumes of satellite imagery, computer models of ice dynamics and experienced human analysts and forecasters to produce timely ice charts to support the safety of marine navigation. In addition to producing ice charts for their own waters and economic zones, these ice services also collaborate to jointly construct ice charts for the entire Arctic Ocean. 

Text from IICWG.

 Forum Member Information

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hydrography    meteorology    icedata    crewtraining

RRF2According to PAME’s AMSA II(D) 2014 report, “Projected increases in Arctic shipping, especially in the tourism, fishing, energy and mining sectors, means that increased quantities of ship-generated waste will be generated and transported onboard ships travelling through the Arctic waters with an attendant increase in risk of pollution and discharges to the marine environment.”

Due to the unique Arctic marine environment, which is both environmentally sensitive and remote, compliance with MARPOL requirements as shipping increases in the future is imperative. One such requirement for Arctic port states is to ensure the provision of adequate port reception facilities (PRF) for certain ship generated waste, long recognized as a key element in MARPOL for the prevention of pollution from ships.

Additionally, Polar Code amendments to MARPOL Annexes entered into force starting in January 2017. Polar Code Amendments to MARPOL will challenge shipboard waste management due to discharge restrictions of operational waste in Arctic waters. All port States, including Arctic port States, under existing provisions in the MARPOL Annexes, must ensure the provision of adequate port reception facilities (PRF) for ship-generated waste. In order to meet this challenge PAME agreed that one approach to addressing PRF requirements in MARPOL for Arctic ports would be to consider the concept of regional agreements for waste management and reception of MARPOL wastes at ports in Arctic and near-Arctic areas.

Regional waste management strategies may help solve some of the challenges unique to Arctic shipping while meeting the spirit, if not the letter, of MARPOL in the Arctic. In 2014, PAME established a regional reception facilities expert group (RRF-EG). The RRF-EG presented their work plan and terms of reference (ToR) at PAME (II) 2014 and the project was subsequently included in PAME’s Work Plan (2015-2017) as approved by the SAOs.

This paper is a final report of the RRF-EG, having completed their work for this project under the ToR and presented the final report at PAME II 2016 that included a Regional Reception Facilities Plan (RRFP) based on existing IMO guidance. This document includes path forward, with approval of AC SAOs, for Arctic Council countries, through their IMO Delegations, to bring this work to the attention of IMO’s Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) for consideration.

shutterstock 49594732The establishment of the Arctic Marine Shipping Best Practices Information Forum is in response to the newly adopted International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code) by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The aim of the Forum is to raise awareness of its provisions amongst all those involved in or potentially affected by Arctic marine operations and to facilitate the exchange of information and best practices between the Forum members on specific shipping topics, including but not limited to; hydrography, search and rescue logistics, industry guidelines and ship equipment, systems and structure. A publicly accessible web-portal will be created with information specific to each topic.

The Forum membership is open to Arctic States, Permanent Participants and Arctic Council Observers as well as any widely-recognized professional organization dedicated to improving safe and environmentally sound marine operations in the Arctic as demonstrated by expertise and experience in Arctic shipping and/or related issues.

The Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Working Group of the Arctic Council approved the Forum's Terms of Reference at their last meeting (February 2017).

PAME’s mandate is to address marine policy measures and other measures related to the conservation and sustainable use of the Arctic marine and coastal environment in response to environmental change from both land and sea-based activities, including non-emergency pollution prevention control measures.

These measures include in coordinated strategic plans as well as developing programs, assessments, best practices and guidelines, all of which aim to complement or supplement existing legal and policy instruments and arrangements.

Marine litter in the Arctic

PAME is currenty developing a Regional Action plan on Marine litter in the Arctic. It is co-led by 7 of the 8 Arctic States, in addition to AIA and OSPAR.  PAME conducted the Desktop Study on Marine Litter, including Microplastics in the Arctic as part of the first phase of a Marine Litter Project included in the 2017-2019 Work Plan.

See the video above about PAME's work on marine litter.

PAME's Previous work

Regional Programme of Action
Arctic Council Ministers adopted the Regional Programme of Action for the Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment from Land-based Activities (Arctic RPA) in 1998 and updated it in 2009. The Arctic-RPA is a dynamic programme of action that uses a step-wise approach for its implementation and recognizes the continually evolving situation in the Arctic environment and the need for an integrated approach. It is the regional extension of the GPA, and as such provides a framework for addressing the main pollution source categories and respond to the global concerns. Marine Litter is one of eight contaminant categories of the GPA and the Arctic RPA.

Arctic Marine Strategic Plan
The Arctic Council’s Arctic Marine Strategic Plan 2015-2025 (AMSP) provides a framework to guide its actions to protect Arctic marine and coastal ecosystems and to promote sustainable development. The Strategic Plan addresses both short-term and long-term challenges and opportunities, through forty Strategic Actions. They include:

  • 7.1.3: Improve the understanding of cumulative impacts on marine ecosystems from multiple human activity-induced stressors such as climate change, ocean acidification, local and long range transported pollution (land and sea-based), marine litter, noise, eutrophication, biomass overharvesting, invasive alien species and other threats.
  • 7.2.8: Actively support efforts, in cooperation with indigenous peoples, to:
    • reduce long range pollution accumulating in the Arctic marine food-chains, and;
    • address climate change and ocean acidification by reducing emissions and implementing adaptation measures, as a matter of urgency.
  • 7.3.3: Explore whether there are substances in addition to oil that would benefit from additional pollution preparedness and response cooperation among the Arctic states.

Arctic Ocean Review

Arctic Council Ministers initiated the Arctic Ocean Review (AOR) project in 2009 under the leadership of the PAME working group to provide guidance to the Council on possible ways to strengthen governance, and to achieve desired environmental, economic and socio-cultural outcomes in the Arctic through a cooperative, coordinated and integrated approach to the management of activities in the Arctic marine environment.

AOR includes a chapter on Arctic Marine Pollution, including two recommendations:
  1. Arctic states should continue to identify, monitor and assess the combined effects of multiple stressors – inter alia climate change, ocean acidification, shipping, living marine resource use, regional and long-range pollution, and offshore oil and gas exploration and extraction – on Arctic marine species and ecosystems. Support the ongoing work under EBM, AMAP and CAFF including the initiative “Adaptation Actions for a Changing Arctic” to achieve this endeavor and strengthen the link between the current known status and future management of Arctic marine species and ecosystems.
  2. Arctic states should reaffirm the importance of their engagement in the UNFCC to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions as a matter of urgency, recognizing the significant potential threats posed to Arctic marine ecosystems and Arctic biodiversity from climate change and ocean acidification identified by AMAP and CAFF. Arctic states should also increase their leadership role in the study of ocean acidification in Arctic waters.