Monthly Archives: September 2018

What is the Polar Code?

South Georgia skyline

I have been asked quite a few questions on the Polar Code recently, and the Navigation Lights series of posts have been put to one side for a while whilst I put together some facts about the new code.

The International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters, (The Polar Code), has been introduced by the IMO to safeguard both life and the environment. It therefore draws on both SOLAS and MARPOL for its authority. This post is a quick introduction to the code.

What is the purpose of the Polar Code?

The International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters has been developed to Anchor in the snowsupplement the SOLAS and MARPOL  Conventions in order to increase the safety of ships’ operation and mitigate the impact on the people and environment in the remote, vulnerable and potentially harsh polar waters.

How was the Polar Code introduced?

The polar code was introduced by the IMO resolution  MEPC.264(68)

It is mandated by Chapter XIV – of SOLAS ‘Safety Measures for Ships Operating in Polar Waters’ and by additional chapters to the Annexes of MARPOL

Which ships have to comply with the Polar Code?

To all ships operating in polar waters


Ships constructed before 1 January 2017 shall meet the relevant requirements of the Polar Code by the first intermediate or renewal survey, whichever occurs first, after the 1st of  January 2018.

It does not apply Ships owned or operated by a Contracting Government and used, for the time being, only in Government non-commercial service. However, ships owned or operated by a Contracting Government and used, for the time being, only in Government non-commercial service are encouraged to act in a manner consistent, so far as reasonable and practicable, with the code.

What are Polar Waters?

  • Antarctic: Further south than 60 South
  • Arctic:  Within a boundary defined in the code, this has a lowest latitude of 58 North off Greenland

Where can Information on the Polar Code be found?

Frozen sea and mountainsWhat does the Polar Code Cover?

This is best summarized by the chapter headings of its two sections.

Safety Measures

  • Chapter 1 -General
  • Chapter 2 – Polar Water Operation Manual (PWOM)
  • Chapter 3-Ship Structure
  • Chapter 4- Subdivision and Stability
  • Chapter 5- Watertight and Weathertight Integrity
  • Chapter 6-Machinery Installations
  • Chapter 7-Fire safety/Protection
  • Chapter 8-Life Saving Appliances and Arrangements
  • Chapter 9- Safety of Navigation
  • Chapter 10-Communication
  • Chapter 11- Voyage Planning
  • Chapter 12- Manning and Training

Pollution Prevention Measures

  • Chapter 1-Prevention of Pollution by Oil
  • Chapter 2-Control of Pollution by Noxious Liquid Substances in Bulk
  • Chapter 3-Prevention of Pollution by Harmful Substances Carried by Sea in Packaged Form
  • Chapter 4- Prevention of Pollution by Sewage from Ships
  • Chapter 5-Prevention of Pollution by Garbage from Ships

PolarCodeClick to search for the Polar Code on Amazon>

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Navigation Light Controller (NLC)-A quick guide the requirements


Bridge of general cargo ship

Some more information from Resolution MSC.253(83)

This post is a continuation from of the last post covering navigation lights performance standards.

Click here to view a cop of MSC 258>

What is a Navigation Light Controller?

Navigation Light Controller (NLC) is a device enabling operational control of a Navigation Light.

What are the requirements of a Navigation Light Controller?Bridge window with gold sun screens

  • An NLC should facilitate ON/OFF controls of individual NLs
  • An NLC should provide visual indications of ON/OFF status of NLs
  • An NLC on board a ship not less than 50 m in length should present the status of all NLs in a logical presentation, meeting the requirements set out in resolution MSC.191(79), e.g., by symbol marks on a display. Click here to view the resolution
  • All indicators of an NLC should be dimmable to ensure easy reading without disturbing the night vision of the Officer of the Watch. The brightness of a display, if fitted, of an NLC should be controllable.

Note: Pre-programmed NL group settings may be provided

What are the requirements regarding light failures?

An NLC on board a ship not less than 50 m in length should provide the alarm for:

  • A failure of power supply to the Navigation Lights
  • A failure, including short circuit, of a lamp which is switched ON.

An NLC should support the use of standardized serial interfaces for marine navigation and communication systems

The NLC should have a bi-directional interface to transfer alarms to external systems and receive acknowledgements of alarms from external systems. The interface should comply with the relevant international standards

Power supply and fallback arrangements

Each navigation light should be connected, via separate circuits, to a navigation light controller located on the bridge in order to avoid any navigation light failure, including short circuit, that affect any navigation lights connected to the controller.

Navigation lights and controllers, and associated equipment should be so constructed and installed, as necessary, that they are readily accessible for inspection and maintenance purposes.

What is Navsregs and its booksgormleytankerstern

To explore more Navsregs posts and the Really Handy Books published by Navsbooks, click here>

​Navigation Light Performance Standards-A handy guide to the IMO Resolution

Navsregs>COLREGS>Navigation light performance standards summary

Sunrise over a jettyResolution MSC.253(83) Performance Standards for Navigation lights, Navigation Light Controller and Associated Equipment

The last post contained a contents list of this Resolution, this post goes into a bit more detail with a summary of some of its contents.

Click here to view a cop of MSC 258>

What are the  navigation lights?

  • Masthead light
  • Sidelights
  • Sternlight
  • Towing light
  • All-round light
  • Flashing light
  • All-round flashing yellow light required for air-cushion vessels
  • Manoeuvering light

Note: Unless expressly required, these Navigation lights  should appear steady and non-flashing.

The document also refers to international standard  IEC 60945.

What material should navigation lights be produced in?Tug Masthead lights

Material that is:

  • Robust
  • Non-corroding material,
  • Should ensure a long-term durability for the optical qualities 

What is the requirement to carry spare Navigation lights and lamps?

  • A masthead light, sidelights and a sternlight installed on board a ship not less than 50m in length should be duplicated or be fitted with duplicate lamps
  • A sufficient number of spare lamps for Navigation lights should be carried onboard

: Only lamps specified by the manufacturer should be used.

By how much may the  Luminous intensity vary?

Within the prescribed sector in which the minimum luminous intensity is required the vertical intensity distribution of the light should be  uniform in such a way that the measured minimum and maximum luminous intensity values  do not differ by more than a factor of 1.5.

This is to avoid  intensity changes which may result in the appearance of a flashing light.

What special requirements are there for Navigation lights using LEDs?

  • An alarm  must notify the Officer of the Watch that the luminous intensity of the light reduces below the level required by COLREGs
  • The lifespan of LEDs should be determined and clearly notified by the manufacturer

What markings must a navigation light have?Navigation lights on a tug's mast

Each light should be marked with:

  • The type/category of the light
  • The serial and certificate number
  • Head line directions
  • Range in nautical miles
  • Nominal wattage of the light source in watts, if different values lead to different ranges. 

How should Navigation lights be installed?

Navigation lights should be installed in such a way so as:

  • To protect navigation watch keeping
  • To ensure that the light shows over the  required arcs of visibility
  • To satisfy the required vertical separation and location requirements in all normal operating trim conditions
  • So that the lamp specified by the manufacturer can be efficiently  and readily replaced, without elaborate re-calibration or readjustment
  • So that they are readily accessible for inspection and maintenance purposes

Click to view this Handy Revision Guide for Kindle on Amazon

A Really Handy Guide to learn the Collision Regulations

This is the first in the series of Kindle revision guides covering the COLREGS.

Click here to view on Amazon>

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Performance Standards for Navigation lights- A summary

Navsregs>COLREGS>Navigation light performance standards
LightandBlockAnd now,  the dive down into navigation light regulations now hits the bottom of detail with an IMO resolution. 

The post in Navigation light series gives a quick summary into the performance standards required of vessel’s navigation lights.

What document gives the performance Standards for Navigation lights?

​Resolution MSC.253(83)

Performance Standards for Navigation lights, Navigation Light Controller and Associated Equipment

Click here for the document>

Navigation Light equipment should be designed, tested, installed and maintained based on these standards.

What is the purpose of Navigation Lights?

  • Identify ships
  • Notify their intentions at sea 

What is the purpose of a Navigation Lights Controller?

is to provide means of:

  • Control of Navigation lights
  • Monitoring of the status of Navigation lights 

Stern light of a ferry

What is covered in MSC 253?

1 Scope

2 Application

3 Definitions

  • Associated equipmentLightCloseMast
  • Lamp
  • Length
  • Navigation Light (NL)
  • Navigation Light Controller (NLC)

4 Navigation Lights

  • General
  • Luminous intensity distribution
  • Special requirements for lights using LEDs

5 Navigation Light Controller

  • On off switches
  • Status indications
  • Pre-programming
  • Alarms
  • Dimming
  • Interfaces

6 Power supply and fallback arrangementsMast and flags of a bunker barhe

  • Need for separate circuits
  • Ability to operate  by an emergency source
  • Automatic switch over to the alternative source of power is permitted.

7 Associated equipment

  • General requirements for  associated equipment
  • Screens for sidelight may be a part of a ship’s structure.

8 Marking

The markings that each Navigation Light should have.

9 Installation of navigation lights and associated equipment.

The general requirements required of navigation lights

10 Maintenance

  • The requirements for the ease of replacing the lights
  • The requirements for the ability to maintain the lights

The next post will look at some of these performance standards in more detail.

The Really Handy Books

HandyBooksThis is a series of COLREG revision books formatted for Kindle Readers.

Click for more information about the range>

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