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Loss Prevention Circular No

Loss Prevention Circular No. 01-03

Severe ice conditions in the northern Baltic Sea



Due to heavy ice conditions in the northern Baltic Sea, navigational restrictions have been issued.  This circular provides information on where to find up to date information on ice conditions in the northern Baltic Sea.  In addition, please refer to the Gard Services Loss Prevention Circular 10-01, Operations in extremely cold climates.  Copies of this circular can be found on the Gard Services website at www.gard.no.


Ice condition information

The latest ice and navigational information can be found on the Internet at the following addresses:

·           Finnish Institute of Marine Research ice service (www.merentutkimuslaitos.fi) provide daily ice reports in Finnish, Swedish and English, ice charts, the Baltic Sea ice code, and ice forecasts.

·           Finnish Maritime Administration (www.fma.fi) provides information on ice breaking and restrictions to navigation.

·           Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (www.smhi.se) provides information on ice charts, ice reports, fairway information and ice forecasts.

·           Swedish Maritime Administration (www.sjofartsverket.se) provides information on ice breaking.

·           In addition, Oy Gard Services (Baltic) AB, Helsinki and Gard Services Sweden AB, Gothenburg receives the latest Baltic Sea ice charts.  They can provide up to date navigational information, restrictions on navigation, ice breaker positions and reporting points for those vessels bound for Finnish ports and requiring icebreaker assistance.  The contact details for Oy Gard Services (Baltic) AB, Helsinki are: tel. + 358 9 6188 380, fax. +358 9 6121 000.

·           Capt. Y.Nazarovs of Pandi Services East has provided information on restrictions in St. Petersburg, Russia.  St. Petersburg’s Harbour Master’s order No.1, dated 5th January 2003, states that as of 13th January 2003, ice navigation is not permitted in the port of St. Petersburg for the following types of vessels:

–           all ships with ice class less than Лу-3 of the Russian Maritime Register of Shipping classification or corresponding ice class by other Classification Societies (LR – 1B, GL – E2, E2K or E2m, BV – Glace 11, DnV – Ice B or Ice 1B, ABS – BO – 1B); and

–           all ships with main engines power 3500 h.p. and less.

In certain cases, special ice pilotage can be arranged with express the permission of the Harbour Master.


Nordic Agreement on ice breaking assistance for the Baltic Sea

A Nordic Agreement exists between Finland, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Germany to co-ordinate their efforts to assist ships traffic and keep the vessels moving during winter.  However, this agreement does not set out in detail how and when assistance should be provided. The Swedish ice-breaking operation is governed by law, including their tariffs, and similar arrangements may apply in other countries.


The ice-breaking operation will assist any vessel in an emergency situation. However, a vessel without sufficient ice-class, experiencing main engine, propeller, rudder etc., damages may  not receive immediate assistance as long as the crew or ship is not in danger, or, alternatively, until such time as the ice-breaking operation consider they have the time to assist the vessel.


Ice-breaking assistance is free of charge. Assistance beyond helping vessels getting to and from ports will be charged according to a tariff, which is considered a statute. These tariffs are, as far as we have been able to establish, more expensive in Finland than in Sweden. As all aspects of the services by the ice-breaking operation (tariffs, liability etc.) are considered statues, Lloyds Open Form (LOF) is not applicable.


It is worth noting that ice-breakers will not assist in towage operations if another tug is already engaged. Where a vessel, incapable of manoeuvring out of the ice by its own power, needs to go to a repair yard, owners would first need to contract the ice-breaking operation and then meet up with a commercial tug in ice-free waters.



·           All efforts should be made to ensure that current up to date ice conditions are made available to all vessels transiting the northern Baltic Sea.  In addition, companies should ensure they are properly informed on the specifics of ice breaking assistance including the Nordic Agreement for the territorial waters of all countries that the vessel will transit through.

·           Shipowners, ship managers and charterers should make every effort to ensure that vessels trading in the Baltic have the proper ice class as required by the appropriate authorities. Although operating in some of the trading areas affected by this ice problem, does not represent a breach of trading warranties, owners may not be covered by insurance as this is an expected and foreseeable risk.  The consensus in Sweden is that entering these waters without sufficient ice-class (as defined by the Swedish Icebreaking Authority), constitutes a breach of the safety regulations.  If you have any questions or doubts concerning insurance cover, please contact your relevant underwriter or Club.

·           For vessels transiting through Finnish waters inbound or outbound to Russian ports in the Baltic Sea, please note that the ice class requirements differ between Finnish and Russian authorities.  For example, vessels meeting the requirements inbound to or outbound from St. Petersburg may not meet the requirements of the Finnish authorities, should the vessel be trapped in Finnish waters.  In instances, the vessel would be subject to the multi-state agreement mentioned above.

·           Ice breaking assistance will be available not only in an emergency, but also if required by ships. The following instructions are currently in force:

–           ships requiring icebreaker assistance in the Gulf of Finland, on their way to a Finnish port, shall report to Helsinki VTS on channel 67 when passing the Hanko longitude.

–           Vessels with destined for harbours in the Sea of Bothnia and the Bay of Bothnia are requested to report name, nationality, destination and speed to VTS Stockholm on VHF channel 84, via coastal radio or telephone direct +46 8 666 66 22 when passing the light house Svenska Björn.