The committee, which met in London this week, signed off on the Polar Code and various amendments to the Safety of Life at Sea (Solas) convention. These changes, which include mandatory requirements for ship design, crew training and search and rescue protocols, are expected to be ratified by the full IMO next year and come into force in 2017.
Melting sea ice due to global warming and pressure to cut costs makes the Arctic commercially enticing to shipping companies who want to avoid the circuitous, pirate-ridden voyage from China to Europe via the Suez Canal. Tourism, fishing and fossil fuel operations are also looking toward one of the world’s most fragile and extreme environments.
Evan Bloom, director of the US State Department’s Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs said: “More and more people are going to be in the Arctic for one reason or another. In the future there may be [more] fishing vessels... There will be more and more tourism. There will be more and more commerce.” He says this increases the likelihood of something going wrong in a region where there is currently very little capability to respond in either a search and rescue or environmental clean-up capacity.
...According to insurer Allianz, Russia predicts a 30-fold increase in shipping by 2020 and an ice-free Northern Sea Route by 2050. China has suggested that by 2020, 5-15% of its trade value - close to $500bn - could pass through the Arctic....