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An International Polar Code of Navigation: Consequences and Opportunities for the Arctic

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AbstractThe Arctic regime on vessel-source pollution is currently fragmented and inadequate to tackle the emerging environmental risks. Thus, a harmonized set of norms is needed to ensure compliance with internationally recognized standards. During the IMO’s Polar Code negotiations, Canada and the Russian Federation claimed that the regulations adopted pursuant to article 234 shall not be infringed. If ratified and complied with by a large majority of the international shipping community, The Code could acquire the status of generally accepted international rules and standard (GAIRAS). It follows that a Polar Code is not likely to substitute existing national norms, nor will it impede Arctic coastal states to use article 234 in the future. The tension between harmonization and the persistence of national regulations will likely result in a partially harmonized regime. While the Code will extend environmental protection to the high seas, national regulations will be harmonized in the EEZ insofar as design, construction, equipment and manning standards are concerned. Aside from the Polar Code process, designation of Special Areas and PSSAs may integrate the future Polar Code and the national regulatory frameworks now in force. Bilateral or multilateral harmonization should not be excluded to the extent practicable.

Affiliations: 1: Aarhus


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