Adding to the woes of ocean carriers is another raft of regulations from the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

As of January 1, the Polar Code, IGF Code for gas-fuelled ships and Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping (STCW) came into force.

The Polar Code includes safety and pollution prevention measures specifically suited to the harsh and challenging conditions in Arctic and Antarctic waters.

Ships intending to operate in Arctic or Antarctic waters must be assessed and carry a Polar Certificate as well as a Polar Water Operational Manual to be compliant.

The new safety and environmental provisions of the Code apply to new ships built after January 1, 2017.  Ships built before implementation date must meet the relevant safety requirements of the Polar Code by the first intermediate or renewal survey, whichever occurs first, after January 1, 2018.

Safety provisions include enclosed lifeboats, protective thermal clothing for all persons onboard, special ice removal equipment and special fire safety equipment for cold weather.

Environmental provisions apply to existing and new ships. The provisions outline strict limits or prohibit the discharge of sewage, oil, plastics, food wastes, chemicals, and other substances.

At the same time, the new International Code of Safety for ships using gases and other low flashpoint fuels (IGF Code), which applies to new vessels, aims to minimise the risk to the ship, its crew and the environment, having regard to the nature of the fuels involved.

More IMO legislation came into force in January. Under the Standards of Training Certification and Watchkeeping of Seafarers (STCW), carriers now have mandatory requirements including new crew rest hours, new grades of certificates of competence, new and updated training, security training and upgraded medical standards.

Although the new regulations related to safety and the protection of the maritime environment are being welcomed by the industry, there will be a negative financial impact for ship owners as they will have to pay for new equipment and crew training. With only a handful container carriers managing to stay in the black in 2016, any additional costs will increase the likelihood of further mergers and acquisitions, and even bankruptcies, during 2017.