experience and competence requirements in Chapter 12 of the
Polar Code was regarded by 53.5% of the survey respondents
as being a major area of concern for future safety.
Many respondents remarked on the importance of the
ability to recognise different types of ice and to interpret ice
conditions. This is of particular importance given the wide
variability of ice conditions encountered from year to year,
time of year and geographical operations.
The integrated use of marine simulators in Polar Code
training was viewed positively by 52% of respondents – al-though
cautions were voiced about the extent to which
simulators can replace practical ice navigation experience at
The survey comments highlighted the importance of skills
such as patience and prudence in achieving safe manoeuvring
in ice – with several respondents noting the importance of
gaining a ‘feel’ and having a respect for ice.
Part of my research aimed to explore the influence and
application of existing and future technological systems, and
much of the survey feedback expanded on the importance of
harmonisation and enhancement of existing navigational
systems in the first instance. Almost one-quarter of respond-ents
said they thought the automatic integration of ice
forecasts into an ENC platform would be very useful, while
61% saw it as marginally useful. Almost three-quarters saw a
potentially positive impact on safety from the use of an
automatic ice detection system, in conjunction with an ice
A wide range of views were expressed on emergent technol-ogies
such as forward and upward looking sonar systems for
ice monitoring and unmanned aerial vehicles for tactical
navigation support. The use of drone technology for timely
aerial imagery was considered by 77% of respondents as
having the potential to significantly or relatively enhance
safety in ice-covered waters in the next decade.
The survey also identified some of the constraints experi-enced
by ice navigators – including issues with data connec-tivity,
concern over availability of icebreakers, commercial
pressures, and insufficient hydro-meteorological data.
Several respondents noted bandwidth limitations as an
issue for vessels operating in high latitudes – with availability
of updated accurate ice and weather forecasts being a
recurrent comment. Inadequate coverage of areas surveyed to
modern hydrographic standards was seen as a significant
issue by 52% of participants, and concerns were also raised
over the suitability and capability of vessels in ice-covered
areas, the combined crew experience, and knowledge of the
design limits and ice strengthening of the vessel.
The importance of appropriate manning levels and watch-keeping
schedules was raised by many respondents, who
highlighted the issue of fatigue for watchkeepers as a conse-quence
of the intensity of operations in ice.
I hope this study has contributed in a small way to an
understanding and a better appreciation of the significance of
deck officer training, skills and competence requirements for
maritime operations in ice-covered waters.
The findings demonstrate a contrast between the regula-tory
requirements for training and competency and the actual
expectations of ice navigation competency and skills. How-ever,
at this stage it is too early to determine whether or not
the Polar Code training requirements will prove to be suffi-cient
to improve overall safety not only in polar regions but
also in other ice-covered waters. •