By Captain David (Duke) Snider, FNI FRGS

In 2018, new amendments to the IMO’s Standard for Training, Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) impacting vessels operating within the requirements of the Polar Code will come into effect. As the first global standards to be required of some shipping within Polar Waters, the new Polar Code/STCW Basic and Advanced Polar Waters Training certifications will be a great leap forward.

Some international institutions began advertising “Polar Code Training” before IMO approved model courses in the spring of this year. As yet, most administrations have not approved Polar Code compliant training. Transport Canada has yet to put in place national standards, though a contract is in place with the Company of Master Mariners to develop “Canadian” Polar Code Waters Training modules based on the IMO approved model courses. These courses will undoubtedly meet the specifics of the Polar Code/STCW requirements and the associated IMO approved model course syllabi, but will remain restricted to the parameters forced upon them by the limited scope of the Polar Code training requirements.

From the outset, the Polar Code training requirements have been limited in scope. The new requirements will affect only specific SOLAS ships (passenger ships, tankers, “other”) operating in Polar Waters depending on three levels of ice concentration; no sea ice, less than one tenth and more than one tenth ice coverage. Depending on the vessel and the concentration of ice, certain officers will be required to have obtained either the Basic or Advanced training prescribed in the IMO instruments. If senior officers do not have the required certification due to the lack of regular operation in Polar Waters, certified individuals may be utilized in addition to the ship’s regular deck officer complement. Though the approved model courses syllabus will cover ice dynamics and theory of ship operation in ice, no actual experience operating a vessel in any ice concentration is required as part of the Polar Code/STCW training, only sea time within Polar Waters or waters deemed equivalent by an administration. It is highly conceivable that both junior and senior officers could obtain the appropriate Polar Waters Training certification having never actually encountered any sea ice.

The Nautical Institute was encouraged by industry to continue development of its Ice Navigator Training Accreditation and Certification Scheme. The Ice Navigator Scheme complements the Polar Code/STCW requirements, adding actual in-ice experience as a requirement, and providing a global standard that will be useful onboard ships regardless of their area of operation, type or construction. Launched in July of this year, the Ice Navigator Scheme has already had a large take-up as experienced Ice Navigators have applied for and been granted certification under grandfathering provisions. A number of maritime training institutions are applying for initial “recognition” of their current or planned ice navigator courses, providing material to confirm that their programs meet The Nautical Institute’s new standards.

During the initial launch phase of The Nautical Institute Ice Navigator Certification, bridge watchkeeping officers that have sailed in a capacity as ice navigator, ice advisor or ice master may apply for grandfathering into the scheme at either Level 1 (Basic) or Level 2 (Advanced). Applicants must provide proof of holding appropriate current STCW certificates of competency and proof of having met the ice time requirements for the requested level. Proof of seatime in ice may include seatime testimonials, discharge book entries, company records, ice observations, log book entries or other documents that identify the ice encountered and days in ice. Upon application with the appropriate documentation, the relevant experience level is determined and the certificate is issued. Grandfathering will be available only for a limited time. When sufficient numbers of training institutions have received recognition or accreditation to conduct training under The Nautical Institute Scheme, grandfathering will be phased out.

The follow-on phases of the rollout will include The Nautical Institute providing recognition of training institutions’ courses that meet the Accreditation Standard. This recognition phase allows for a simplified application by interested institutions that will be required to provide written evidence they meet the overall requirements laid out in the full accreditation documents. After one year of recognition, institutions would apply for full accreditation of their program. Schools that have received national administration approval for Polar Code/STCW training can apply for recognition and authority to certify officers under the Nautical Institute Ice Navigator Scheme if they meet the additional training requirements. Students who have successfully completed courses that are duly approved will be eligible to be granted certification for both Polar Waters Training and NI Ice Navigator Certification.

The new entry scheme follows a two-level process in parallel with the Polar Code/STCW requirements. Level 1 training includes academic elements and also allows for use of practical training sessions, either in approved simulators or onboard vessels in ice. After successfully obtaining a NI Level 1 Certificate as Ice Navigator, the officer enters the follow-on scheme as a certified Level 1 Ice Navigator. Once the requisite experience in ice is obtained, the officer can attend Level 2 training, including practical training in simulators or at sea, and apply for certification as a Level 2 Ice Navigator. More senior officers may be able to enter the scheme directly into Level 2.

The Nautical Institute Ice Navigator Scheme provides an international standard in training and recognition of skills in ice navigation, bridging the gap between the previous variety of regional and national schemes that often had little in common with each other. It provides the mariner with an internationally recognized common proof of competence, and demonstrates to operators and insurers of vessels the high level of professional skill, knowledge and competence they have obtained.

Specific enquiries can be directed to The Nautical Institute at

Captain David (Duke) Snider, FNI FRGS, is CEO and Principal Consultant, Martech Polar Consulting Ltd. He is the international President of The Nautical Institute, based in London, and a Director of The Nautical Institute British Columbia Branch.