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Polarview – service for safer shipping

Science for safer shipping

Sea ice affects polar shipping operations. Polar View – developed in the Antarctic by an international consortium of ice charting experts led by BAS – provides a near-real-time sea ice information service for ship operators to help them minimise delays, improve efficiency, and take action to avoid life-threatening safety hazards, damage to vessels and potentially severe consequences for the environment.

Polarview is widely used by commercial and tourist shipping, and by national polar research programmes in the Antarctic and the Arctic. The service enhances safety of ship operations in hazardous polar waters, has led to industry efficiency and cost savings, and has attracted around £1million of external R&D funding to BAS since 2005. The web-based sea-ice monitoring service created and led by BAS sea ice and informatics specialists, delivers mapped data direct to ships.  Information products include radar satellite images with 100 m pixel spacing delivered in less than four hours from acquisition. Working with Polar View partners  and drawing on expertise from the BAS Climate science, the service is delivered in two parts:

1. Publically available free-to-use sea ice information service;
2. On-demand, paid for, services customised to user’s location and information requirements.

In recent years the polar oceans have seen an increase in maritime activity resulting from:
•    use of northern sea routes by commercial shipping operators
•    an expansion of natural resource exploration driven by changes in Arctic sea ice extent1
•    growth of commercial fishing activity in the Arctic and Antarctic
•    increasing tourism and yacht racing in both polar regions
•    Arctic and Antarctic scientific research cruises

The service is used by many sectors inlcuding the international polar science community, polar tour operators, commercial shipping lines, national defence agencies, and rescue and marine safety organisations.