Requirements for passenger ships in the territorial waters surrounding Svalbard

The Norwegian Maritime Authority (NMA) has issues a circular with information on the minimum requirements for ships operating at Svalbard. Certificates should be issued by the ship’s flag state.

New regulations for passenger ships entered into force 1 January 2020. Please find the new regulations here. There is a transitional period of 5 years for ships that have operated at Svalbard for the past years.

Use of small crafts for sightseeing

Small crafts used for sightseeing or similar, should either be certified as passenger ships (se above) or comply with the regulations on vessels carrying 12 passengers or less. This applies also for small crafts that is launched from a larger passenger vessel.

In the new regulations for craft carrying 12 passengers or less (in force 1 February 2020), there are a few new requirements for craft operating at Svalbard. The company shall register information at the NMA (link, engelsk versjon av skjema!). The registration is valid for one year.

There is a new requirement on safe distance from glacier fronts. The distance shall be minimum five times the height of the glacier front, but never less than 200 meter. The craft shall have equipment to measure distance to the glacier front (e.g. radar or other means).

There is a new requirement to have AIS (minimum class B) and if the craft is operation in areas without VHF coverage (Sea area A2-A4), the craft shall have MF/DSC or a satellite phone (e.g. Iridium).

Notification and reporting of accidents

Both Norwegian and foreign vessels are obliged to report accidents when operating in Norwegian territorial waters.


The University of Stavanger and the Norwegian Coast Guard has conducted three major exercises at Svalbard in 2016, 2017 and 2018, with focus on the use of different lifesaving appliances in polar waters.

The reports from the exercises is available here:

The NMA was present in all exercises and we recommend companies operating passenger ships at Svalbard to take into consideration the outcome of those reports, as applicable for the type of ship and operation.