Document for consultation - see below and attached
Dear Simon Currin, Commodore Ocean Cruising Club
Polar Yacht Guide
I would like to make you aware of recent developments in legislation and guidance concerning
yachts navigating in polar regions.
In recent years, there has been an increase in yachts visiting the polar regions. For example, there
have been more transits of the Northwest Passage in the last decade (193 transits between 2009
and 2019) than the previous ten decades since the first transit by Amundsen in 1906. Many of the
these transits were completed by yachts. The Antarctic and Southern Ocean has also become
increasingly attractive to adventurous sailors.
Most of these expeditions have been successfully completed by well prepared yachts with
competent crews. However there have been a number of exceptions which have resulted in
search and rescue operations and potential damage to the environment. This is a cause of
concern to search and rescue authorities with limited resources, environmentalists, and
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) is responsible for the regulation of craft of all sizes
throughout the world, however it normally limits its legislation to commercial vessels. For the most
part, private yachts and boats are not subject to detailed or extensive regulation. This has
generally worked well, partly due to the efforts of organisations such as World Sailing (formerly
ISAF) and the RYA, who have long, and successfully, promoted the concept of ‘Educate not
Legislate. However some IMO delegations have proposed that the IMO Polar Code (1) Chapters 9
(Safety of Navigation) and 11 (Voyage Planning) should have the status of a mandatory instrument
for “all ships on all voyages”. On the face of it, the requirements of these Chapters are much
what you would expect for a well-prepared ship in polar waters, and those of Chapter 11 (Voyage
Planning) are similar to the specifications of SOLAS Chapter V (34) that already binds every vessel
in every voyage to the discipline of voyage planning. However, what concerns private yacht
sailors is what may be seen as the creeping extension of mandatory power, into a size and type of
vessel hitherto outside the scope of international shipping regulation.
A voluntary code, ‘Polar Yacht Guide’ (PYG) has been drafted by a number of experienced high
latitude sailors (2) . PYG is in three parts: Part A addresses general issues concerning safety of
navigation and voyage planning in both polar regions. It covers the same subjects as the IMO
Polar Code chapters 9 and 11 but is written for smaller vessels. Part B gives specific guidance for
yachts navigating in the Arctic. Part C is largely a reproduction of existing safety and
environmental advice for yachts produced by the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat (ATS).
The Polar Yacht Guide is being sponsored by World Sailing who are represented on the IMO
working group considering this issue. World Sailing is proposing that education, in the form of
specific yacht guidance, is likely to be more effective than legislation.
Attached is a copy of the draft PYG. We would like to consult extensively with high latitude sailors
and relevant maritime authorities before publishing it. I would be most grateful if you could
distribute this explanation and the draft PYG to interested members of your organisation. A list of
the organisations being consulted is printed below (3). If you are aware of another organisation
which you think should be on the list, please do let me know. I would be grateful if one person
from your organisation could collate any comments and send them back to me by 5th August
With many thanks.