Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum - 4th Meeting summary Report

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The Arctic Council’s Arctic Shipping Best Practice Information Forum (the Forum) convened virtually on 24th – 25 th November 2020 for the fourth time since its inception in 2017. The purpose of the Forum is to support effective implementation of the IMO Polar Code by making publicly available on a dedicated Web Portal information relevant to all those involved in safe and environmentally sound Arctic shipping, including shipowners/operators, regulators, classification societies, marine insurers, and indigenous and local communities, amongst others. The original meeting was scheduled to take place at IMO Headquarters in London on 11th -12th May 2020 but was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The theme of the 4 th Forum meeting was The Polar Code: Trending Toward Success. The overarching focus was the identification of information to support implementation of the Polar Code, with important aspects of interpretation highlighted including the human element, voyage planning, amongst others, with important presentations from key Forum Participants One of the key topics and a source of considerable debate was the Polar Operational Limitations Assessment Risk Indexing System (POLARIS), which is currently scheduled in IMO’s work plan for review in 2021, subject to proposals put forward by IMO Members States and affiliations. The meeting was chaired by Iceland’s Sverrir Konráðsson. Co-chairs were Peter Oppenheimer (United States) and Drummond Fraser (Canada), who co-chair PAME’s Shipping Expert Group, supported by the PAME Secretariat, and Forum Organizing Committee member, Michael Kingston, a Special Advisor to PAME, who also represented IMO at the meeting. The meeting agenda, available in Annex I, included 16 presentations from various Forum Participants. Presentations are available in Annex II. The meeting commenced with Chair Sverrir Konráðsson emphasising the importance of holding Forum meetings to continue the Forum’s work despite the current COVID-19 restrictions. This was underlined by the large attendance, in part due the ease of attending a virtual meeting rather then travelling to a face-to-face meeting, as well as the support of IMO in highlighting the Forum through Circulars to all IMO Member States and Affiliates. Attendance rose by over 80% to 147 individuals, far exceeding last year’s total of 80 individuals who attended the 3rd annual Forum meeting. Participants included representatives of the Arctic States, Permanent Participants, Observer States and Observer Organization (such as IMO and WMO), shipowners, classification societies and intergovernmental organizations, amongst others, involved in implementing, complying with and/or making information available to support the implementation of or compliance with the Polar Code. The Forum Organizing Committee distributed a follow-up meeting survey, to solicit feedback and suggestions from Participants The survey response are important in helping shape the focus and organization of subsequent Forum meetings. The Committee also sent out a call to the Participants to review and enhance information for the Web Portal to further strengthen the Forum’s ability to support Arctic shipping stakeholders. The Forum also encouraged Participants to make financial contributions to help the Forum’s sustainability. The Forum Web-Portal is the foundation upon which most of the Forum’s efforts are tied. Efforts to advance the Web-Portal are continuous. An overview of the Web-Portal was presented by Michael Kingston, available here. In the welcome it was noted that the Forum’s Web Portal has become a “treasure trove” for Arctic navigators, seeing significant expansion of information submitted since the previous Forum’s meeting. This also highlighted the importance of the intersessional work undertaken in the organising and processing of the information in order to appear on the Web Portal. Comments were invited on the proposition that the remit of the Forum be expanded to include the safety and sustainability of all Arctic maritime operations, perhaps outside the parameters of the Polar Code. The Survey results will be analysed and this consideration discussed further. The PAME Secretariat and the Forum Organizing Committee deeply appreciate the support of all Participants. It is pleasing to see that this collective effort is paying dividends in that the Forum and Web Portal is gaining traction, coverage, and significant respect in the international arena. It is starting to achieve both PAME and the Participants’ objectives for safe shipping and the protection of our environment, and the concerns of the Arctic’s inhabitants, based on a collaborative approach.