Jump to content

Polar Regions Ship Considerations


Recommended Posts

When going to the Arctic or the Antarctic picking the right ship can make a difference in what you experience.  However, that does not mean that that choices are limited.  There are many choices with well-known companies like Aurora Expeditions, Hurtigruten, National Geographic (Lindblad), Ponant, Quark, Seabourn, Silverseas, and Viking for example.  Others are new Scenic and Atlas Ocean. Additionally, specialty travel companies like Abercrombie & Kent and Wilderness Travel offer these expeditions on ships from the major companies that they have chartered for specific voyages. 

 

Ships must comply with the Polar Code adopted by the International Maritime Organization to operate in these two areas. The code provides safety and environmental protection requirements which the ship, its crews and passengers must meet. Each ship must comply with the operating limits of its certificate. Ships are divided into three categories A, B, and C.  Category A and B ships meet the requirements for IACS Polar Classes. Category C ships have been designed to operate in open water and in ice less severe than first year ice and do not meet the IACS Polar Classes. 

 

Ships are grouped into seven Polar Classes. PC 1 the highest allowing for year-round operations in all polar waters (Above the 600 North or South with some exceptions for Iceland, Alaska, and other locations in the Arctic region). The lowest classification PC-7 allows for summer and autumn operations in thin first year ice. 

 

PC2 is currently the highest class of ship in operation and the only ship currently certified is the Ponant expedition ship, Le Commandant Charcot. It can break ice up to 8 feet thick. Several Governments have PC2 class icebreakers under construction with deliveries in the next couple of years. 

 

Four expedition ships have been built to the PC 5 rating for National Geographic (Endurance and Resolution) and Swan Hellenic cruises (Minerva and Vega) which all for year-round operations in medium first-year ice and some older ice. 

 

All the other expedition ships are either PC 6, PC 7, not assigned an Ice Class or rated by another authority. These ships are usually limited to summer/autumn operations in either open waters or in less severe ice condition.

 

Some of the cruise lines use the guidance from Lloyds Register to describe their ships ice handling capability based on the thickness of the ice and whether first or multi-year ice. Their rating of 1A is for first year ice with a thickness of up to one meter (3.2 feet). Their AC3 rating is for Arctic or Antarctic conditions of up to 3 meters.  PC 6 and 7 the lowest level of the Polar Class is roughly equivalent to two highest levels under some of the older certification requirements.

 

In addition to the ship’s Polar class, size in an important consideration.  If you want to go ashore, then a large ship is not an option.  In the Antarctic no more than 100 people can land at a site at the same time.  So, a zodiac cruise may be offered to the remaining passengers until the site is again available for landing. In the Arctic new regulations have been proposed by the Norwegian Government which would among other things ban access to all 29 protected conservation areas around Svalbard to ships with a capacity of more than 200 passengers.

  • Like 2
Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 months later...
  • 3 weeks later...

In light of yesterday's tragedy on Viking Polaris when it was struck in the Drake Passage by a rouge wave, how does the PC rating impact a ship's actual seaworthiness? Should the ice rating be the only consideration? The ship was returning to port early due to a passenger injury, when a medical evacuation was not considered feasible.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Whilst VAnavigator's information is very helpful, I find myself wondering what demand there is likely to be from passengers for cruises in the Polar Winter.

 

Surely there are going to be few opportunities for shore trips in that period and as such only very dedicated travellers will want to do such a trip.  This makes it difficult to fill up a season of such trips and hence more advantageous for the operator to take their ship to the other pole for a full season of summer cruises there (which is, in fact, what they do).

 

So ships built to operate in Summer conditions would seem to be more than adequate, for most purposes.

 

to Suzyq99 - Yes just got back (2 days ago) from the Opening cruise of SH's Antarctic season.

 

do you have any specific questions?

 

regards

 

tim

 

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...
On 12/4/2022 at 11:36 PM, tim_london0 said:

Whilst VAnavigator's information is very helpful, I find myself wondering what demand there is likely to be from passengers for cruises in the Polar Winter.

 

Surely there are going to be few opportunities for shore trips in that period and as such only very dedicated travellers will want to do such a trip.  This makes it difficult to fill up a season of such trips and hence more advantageous for the operator to take their ship to the other pole for a full season of summer cruises there (which is, in fact, what they do).

 

So ships built to operate in Summer conditions would seem to be more than adequate, for most purposes.

 

to Suzyq99 - Yes just got back (2 days ago) from the Opening cruise of SH's Antarctic season.

 

do you have any specific questions?

 

regards

 

tim

 

I am a little confused.  There has not been any mention of cruising in the "Polar Winter".   Antartica during the southern hemisphere summer (December to March) or the Arctic in the northern hemisphere summer (June to September) are the usual expedition cruising dates.  Even the best icebreaker ships tend not to head to the poles during their respective winters. I doubt there are any ships even with public cruising interest!  Ice breaking capacity is more to do with ice in the Antarctic, even in "summer". (Remember the ship that sank but all passengers were rescued when an experience Arctic captain thought ice was just as thin in the Antarctic?)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...
On 1/28/2023 at 4:49 AM, Port Power said:

 (Remember the ship that sank but all passengers were rescued when an experience Arctic captain thought ice was just as thin in the Antarctic?)

I don’t recall that - good reason to pick an experienced Arctic/Antarctic operator!!

 

no details please - leaving Monday & wish I didn’t know about that rogue wave or the 2 people who died on World Explorer when their rib boat flipped!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

  • Forum Jump
    • Categories
      • Welcome to Cruise Critic
      • Special Event: Q&A with Laura Hodges Bethge, President Celebrity Cruises
      • Hurricane Zone 2024
      • Cruise Insurance Q&A w/ Steve Dasseos of Tripinsurancestore.com Summer 2024
      • New Cruisers
      • Cruise Lines “A – O”
      • Cruise Lines “P – Z”
      • River Cruising
      • ROLL CALLS
      • Cruise Critic News & Features
      • Digital Photography & Cruise Technology
      • Special Interest Cruising
      • Cruise Discussion Topics
      • UK Cruising
      • Australia & New Zealand Cruisers
      • Canadian Cruisers
      • North American Homeports
      • Ports of Call
      • Cruise Conversations
×
×
  • Create New...