The Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) has announced that Norway is introducing new rules for passenger ships in Svalbard effective Jan. 1, 2020. The new regulations, which basically will require all ships to comply with the (IMO) Polar Code, in addition to some operational changes, will apply to both Norwegian and foreign ships operating in the territorial waters surrounding the island group.
According to the NMA, the regulations may involve conversions and modifications for ships not holding international certificates (SOLAS). For these ships, a five-year transitional period has been established to give the companies the opportunity to phase-in the new rules and spread the costs over several years.
Through its regulatory work, the NMA said it had established a dialogue with the industry, and that meetings were held in Oslo and Svalbard, generating feedback that was taken into considering before the new rules were finalized. At the same time, the NMA said it has also maintained a dialogue with the Norwegian Coast Guard and the Governor of Svalbard.
Up until now, companies have been allowed to carry passengers in Svalbard having various certificates and safety standards.
For ships in Svalbard holding a Passenger Ship Safety Certificate in accordance with the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS), 1974, the new regulations will have limited or few financial consequences, according to the NMA. These ships are already required to comply with the Polar Code, and the new regulations will mainly involve operational changes, the NMA stated.
According to the Governor of Svalbard, passenger ship traffic and number of passengers have increased significantly from 2008 to 2018:
In 2008, there were 28 conventional cruise ships calling in Svalbard, bringing 28,697 passengers. Last year, there 15 cruise ships and 45,900 passengers. At the same time, the expedition fleet grew from 24 ships and 10,040 passengers in 2008 to 59 ships and 21,000 passengers in 2018.