The Polar Code – What makes a good course?

The Polar Code – What makes a good course?

Commitment to excellence means going beyond the base STCW requirements.

As global interest in polar exploration and commercial activities grows, so too does the need for robust regulations to ensure the safety and environmental protection of ships navigating these remote and icy areas.

Image of a ship in Polar water, with white snowy mountains in the background | Polar Code

The International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code) stands as a landmark framework established by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to address the unique challenges and risks associated with maritime operations in polar regions. The International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (Polar Code) sets forth critical guidelines to mitigate risks associated with polar navigation. However, compliance with the Polar Code requires not only adherence to regulatory standards but also specialised training for maritime personnel.

Compliance with the Polar Code necessitates a thorough understanding of ice navigation techniques, cold weather operations, and environmental stewardship. STCW training programs play a pivotal role in equipping maritime professionals with the knowledge and skills needed to navigate polar waters safely and responsibly. Seafarers undergo comprehensive training in ice navigation, including principles of ice reconnaissance, interpretation of ice charts, and manoeuvring strategies in ice-infested waters.

Polar Code Training | MSA Portsmouth

Any training programme should include a wide range of different objectives, covering the range of knowledge that is needed to operate in Arctic conditions, including:

  • Ice navigation techniques;
  • Cold weather survival and first aid;
  • Environmental awareness and pollution prevention;
  • Search and rescue procedures.

But what is it that really sets excellent Polar training apart from the rest? The answer, in essence, lies in a commitment to exceeding expectations. As so often, STCW is only a starting point. Excellent operators have a simple yet profound principle: they don’t just meet the requirements; they surpass them. Top quality specialised training goes beyond mere compliance with regulations (which are specifications of the minimum standard of competence).

It is about imparting invaluable wisdom gleaned from the icy frontiers and ensuring that every seafarer emerges prepared for the challenges ahead. Experienced, active Ice Pilots make the ideal instructors. Their wealth of knowledge, traditional tricks, and first-hand insights into the latest regulations set them apart.

When this unique expertise is backed by state-of-the-art full mission simulators equipped with ice pack modules, it is possible to create a comprehensive and immersive learning experience. A good simulator programme will allow participants to navigate through different ice concentrations, understand the effects of ice on ship manoeuvring, sail in convoys, and conduct RIB operations – all in a safe and controlled environment.

Image of a boat in icy waters | Polar Code Training MSA Portsmouth

Instructors must be more than just lecturers – they should be coaches and mentors leading participants through every step of the course. The underlying philosophy is not merely to impart knowledge but to cultivate understanding. I strongly believe that true mastery of Polar navigation comes from mentorship, guidance, and practical application. The instructors serve not only as educators but as guides, whose influence extends far beyond the confines of the training room.

Going the extra mile, not because we have to, but because we understand the significance of preparing seafarers for the challenges that lie ahead should be the essence of all training, but especially
in preparing seafarers for the extreme conditions and sensitive environment of the Arctic. The combination of experienced instructors who can impart real-life learning and cutting edge simulators that go beyond the basics provide the ideal platform for seafarers to learn, grow, and excel – and we all want our crew to excel.

At the Maritime Skills Academy we offer MCA Approved Polar Code Training courses at our state-of-the-art facilities, in Portsmouth. Book online now by visiting the website here.

This article was written by Maritime Skills Academy Director of Training and Simulation (MSA Portsmouth), Capt. Josip Kulas, for Seaways.