Norway has introduced new rules for cruise ships and ferries in Svalbard with the aim of improving safety.
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 are primarily based on compliance with the International Maritime Organisation’s Polar Code, will apply to both Norwegian and foreign ships operating in the territorial waters around the archipelago.
According to the NMA, the regulations may involve conversions and modifications for ships not holding international certificates. 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 possible associated costs over several years.
Through its regulatory work, the authority said it had established a dialogue with the industry, and that meetings were held in Oslo and Svalbard, generating feedback that was taken into consideration before the new rules were finalised.
At the same time, it said it had 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 with a variety of certificates and safety standards.
Growth and change
For ships in Svalbard holding a Passenger Ship Safety Certificate in accordance with the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea (SOLAS) in 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.
According to statistics released by the Governor of Svalbard, passenger ship traffic and the number of passengers have increased significantly from 2008 to 2018.
In 2008, there were 28 overseas cruise ships calling in the archipelago, with 28,697 passengers. Last year, there were 15 cruise ships and 45,900 passengers. But the expedition fleet grew significantly from 24 ships and 10,040 passengers in 2008 to 59 ships and 21,000 passengers in 2018.