The Canadian Parliament approved the Arctic Waters Pollution Prevention Act in 1970 to assert Canada’s jurisdiction to regulate all shipping in zones up to 100 nautical miles off its Arctic coasts. Control measures and clarity were added in 1985 when the Arctic Shipping Pollution Prevention Regulations were enacted and shipping control zones were created. The Canadian Arctic is divided into 16 zones, where Zone 1 is generally considered to have the most demanding conditions, and Zone 16 the least. Access to each zone was established for specified ship ice class, based on historical data related to the probable ice conditions at different times of the year. The system is based on the premise that nature follows a consistent pattern.

In the decades since the zone / date system (Z/DS) of access was created the sea ice has changed in spatial (areas and volume) extent and temporal extent, as have the reasons for taking a ship to a specific location. The Z/DS continues to be used for basic route planning, estimating ice conditions, and can be used for preliminary ice class selection without offering needed accuracy. A study was undertaken to postulate a revised Z/DS that can be applied to the International Association of Classification Society (IACS) Polar Classes (PC) and Finnish-Swedish (Baltic Ice Class) ships. To guide the change ice data for the years 2006 through 2020 was used while considering destinations and proposed safe shipping corridors.

Using the IMO Polar Operation Limit Assessment Risk Indexing System (POLARIS) and its resulting Risk Index Outcomes (RIOs) new zone boundaries were developed that incorporated common shipping routes and destinations. In addition, the boundaries for the new zones follow line of latitude and longitude so seafarers can easily determine when they are entering or leaving a zone. A zone was considered “open” when there was no negative RIO’s inside its boundaries. In accordance with IMO POLARIS methodology a negative RIO indicates elevated risk operations.

This paper details the process used to create an initial updated Z/DS that has 26 zones, encompassing the Canadian Arctic, the Alaskan portion of the Beaufort Sea, the Labrador Coast and the Gulf of St Lawrence. The new 26 zones are shown on maps and entry and exit dates are tabulated. With further validation this process can be expanded to any waters where sea ice data exists.

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