Goal-based regulation and the Polar Code

Ms Julia Gaunce1

1KG Jebsen Centre For The Law Of The Sea, Uit Tromsø, Tromsø, Norway

This presentation sets out research on goal-based regulation as employed in the International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters. The objectives of the Polar Code are maritime safety, vessel-source pollution prevention, and harmonization in the global regulation of ships.

Goal-based regulation is perceived to be a relatively new regulatory form, at least in terms of the legal instruments adopted by the International Maritime Organization. The Polar Code, a recent IMO instrument, is not the first to incorporate a goal-based approach; however, it is innovative in the extent to which it does.

The virtues of a goal-based regulatory approach are conventionally identified as: freedom (the regulated subject is “free” to determine how to comply), adaptability in the face of variable conditions, and allowance for innovation. The issues associated with a goal-based regulatory approach conventionally include lack of clarity with respect to achieving and verifying compliance, and the question of harmonized implementation.

This research aims toward an analysis of the Polar Code in respect of the virtues and issues associated with goal-based regulatory form, to date a topic little discussed by legal commentators.


Julia Gaunce is a Phd Research Fellow, KG Jebsen Centre for the Law of the Sea, Faculty of Law, The Arctic University of Norway, Tromsø, writing on international law and the regulation of ships in polar waters.

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