Cold conditions call for extraordinary measures for ships, equipment and crew

Canada and other areas close to the Arctic are currently experiencing extremely low temperatures, and owners calling at ports in these areas are obliged to prepare accordingly. This includes paying particular attention to safety and navigation-related equipment which may be damaged or impeded from working properly under such conditions. This PSC news summarizes the most important measures to be assessed for cold climate navigation.

TecRegNews No.2 2018 - Cold Conditions

Relevant for ship owners and managers.

To maintain a safe vessel, and to avoid PSC detentions, particular attention should be paid to the following measures when trading in cold climates – especially relevant for Canadian waters:

According to SOLAS II-2, the fire-extinguishing appliances shall be readily available.

The ISM code requires new risk assessments for several situations:

In addition to identifying the potential additional hazards when entering areas with low temperatures, ISM A 10.3 requires the company to identify equipment and technical systems where the sudden operational failure may result in hazardous situations. The SMS (Safety Management System) shall provide for specific measures aimed at promoting the reliability of such equipment or systems. These measures should include the regular testing of stand-by arrangements and equipment or technical systems that are not in continuous use.

ISM A 8.3 requires the SMS to provide for measures which ensure the company’s organization can respond at any time to hazards, accidents and emergency situations involving its ships.

Additionally, local authorities might publish national regulations. For example, Canadian regulations require that all vessels navigating in ice be equipped with a system to prevent icing and choking of sea chests and to maintain an essential cooling water supply to be prepared for icing/blockage that could occur anytime between December and March.

Although this regulation seems related to seawater cooling types of main and auxiliary engines only, the same specifies that proper and ship-specific ISM procedures for navigation in cold weather climates must be in place and strictly followed and understood by all officers and crew members.

“Canadian Marine Machinery Regulations – SOR/90-264” contains pre-arrival information concerning ships operating in ice-covered waters and includes a “Marine Safety Guide checklist for operations in ice-infested waters” (see appendix), which requires that life-saving and firefighting equipment be ice-free and available at all times.

Please be aware that DNV GL rules for classification offer several class notations regarding operations in cold climate (different ice classes for light ice, winterized and polar ice class for operation in polar areas). These notations specify requirements for hull strength, machinery systems and equipment, and include the relevant procedural requirements applicable to ships operating in these climates.


Relevant measures to be assessed for navigation in cold climate conditions:

  • Perform risk assessments to analyze the ship’s current preparedness for operation in low temperatures
  • Use checklist provided by Transport Canada (link below)
  • Prepare the vessel and initiate mitigation actions to ensure smooth operations of all equipment, e.g. additional portable heater, portable units for de-icing
  • DNV GL Winterized notation and IMO Polar both define minimum requirements to the equipment and crew to protect against adverse conditions


In the full PDF article available below you can also find:

  • Mandatory winter navigation information 2015-11-17 (see PDF page 3 - 5)
  • Marine Safety Guide checklist for operations in ice-infested waters (see PDF page 6)


  • Canadian Marine Machinery Regulations – SOR/90-264


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