Companies with vessels that have been granted exemptions for the 2020- and/or 2021-seasons according to RSV 7-2020 or RSV 25-2020, may continue to operate on the same conditions in 2022, without applying for new exemptions.

A proposal for new regulations for vessels carrying 12 passengers or less operating from motherships will be published on for public consultation in 2022.

PART 1 (former RSV 25-2020)

1. Excursions from motherships in the Svalbard area

Vessels used for other activities than transporting passengers from a mothership to shore and back shall comply with the Regulations of 14 January 2020 No. 63 on vessels of less than 24 meters carrying 12 passengers or less.1 Shipowners with such vessels shall register on this link.

Based on the limited nature of excursions, sightseeing, etc. from motherships in the territorial waters surrounding Svalbard, it will according to section 18 in many cases be appropriate in terms of safety to grant exemptions from some of the requirements of the Regulations.

Shipowners with vessels that do not fully comply with the Regulations must submit a written application for exemption from specific requirements of the Regulations to

In these guidelines, the Norwegian Maritime Authority will provide information on conditions for being granted exemption from sections 6, 8, 12, 13 and 14 of the Regulations. Applications for exemption from other sections of the Regulations will be carefully reviewed, as it is fully possible for small vessels operating from motherships to comply with those requirements.

In addition, we will provide information on how to comply with other sections of the Regulations.

2. Exemptions from certain requirements in the Regulations

The following limitations apply to all items 2.1–2.5:

  • The activities take place between 1 April and 31 October 2022.
  • The vessels used are a part of the mothership's equipment.
  • At least two vessels shall operate together (accompanying vessels).
  • The distance from each vessel to the mothership shall be maximum 2.5 nautical miles.

2.1 Section 6 – Qualification requirements and manning

The Norwegian Maritime Authority will grant exemption from section 6 first and second paragraphs, provided that the company have internal procedures for relevant and sufficient training of the crew. The applications must include information about the company’s internal procedures.

2.2 Section 8 – Operational limitations in the territorial waters surrounding Svalbard

The Norwegian Maritime Authority will grant exemption from section 8 first and second paragraphs. This means that the vessels may operate between 1 April and 31 October 2022 and outside the geographical areas mentioned in the second paragraph.

2.3 Section 12 – Radio communication

The Norwegian Maritime Authority will grant exemption from section 12 first and second paragraphs on the condition that each vessel has hand-held VHF/DSC equipment on board for communication between each other and the mothership.

2.4 Section 13 – Float-free satellite EPIRB

The Norwegian Maritime Authority will grant exemption from section 13 due to the short distance to the mothership.

2.5 Section 14 – Radar transponder (Radar SART) or AIS transponder (AIS SART)

The Norwegian Maritime Authority will grant exemption from section 14 due to the short distance to the mothership.

3. How to comply with other requirements of the Regulations

3.1 Section 10 – Navigational equipment

Vessels that have a hand-held GPS unit with updated nautical charts installed on board comply with the requirements in section 10 second paragraph.

3.2 Section 15 – Navigational and weather reports

The requirements of section 15 are fulfilled when the sightseeing/excursions are planned based on updated navigational and weather reports received on the mothership.

PART 2 (former RSV 8-2021)

Alternative to one-piece flotation suits for vessels carrying 12 passengers or less from a mother ship

Some companies have expressed their concern with the Regulations of 14 January 2020 No. 63 on vessels of less than 24 metres carrying 12 passengers or less section 16 fifth paragraph, which requires all persons to wear a one-piece flotation suit while on board a sightseeing boat. According to the Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO), “the average water temperature in Longyearbyen in winter and spring is 0 °C, in summer the average temperature rises to 4 °C, and in autumn it is 2 °C. The flotation suits have not been tested or approved for the environmental conditions and water temperature in Svalbard”.

In 2021, the NMA invited AECO to a workshop to establish an alternative solution while we are investigating a new permanent solution that will provide the necessary safety level for the arctic waters. AECO submitted the existing procedures of Hurtigruten Cruise and Oceanwide Expeditions as representative examples of solutions that are used by the industry. The workshop was conducted according to the procedures in SOLAS chapter III regulation 38.


  • The following assumptions were established in the workshop:
  • The company is responsible for the passengers’ safety, and will be liable for any injuries or fatalities, even if the passengers have to provide their own outer layer.
  • The worst-case scenario assumed in the workshop was one capsized boat with 12 passengers and three crew members in the water, while the other small craft were fully loaded with passengers and not ready for an immediate rescue operation.
  • The one-piece flotation suits with thermal protection class D have not been tested for the arctic climate, and a higher level of safety is necessary.
  • “Polar clothing” provided by the passengers is not based on any recognised standards. Even though such clothes may perform well in water, neither the company nor the NMA have any ways of verifying this. However, passenger provided clothes will most likely be comfortable and have a good fit for each user, which is good for mobility on board the boats, and for preventing accidents. A good fit could also be beneficial if the person falls overboard, as it will minimise the water ingress.
  • For tender boat operations from a mother ship, the rescue of a person overboard would be conducted within minutes. During the small craft operations, there are typically several tender boats operating together, in addition to the mother ship which can provide aid, including SOLAS approved rescue boat(s).
  • Most expedition cruise ships in the Arctic have advanced medical equipment, medical personnel and trained staff and crew.


Vessels that have been granted exemptions according to RSV 7-2020 , RSV 25-2020 or Part 1 in these guidelines, do not have to provide one-piece flotation suits for their passengers and crew during small craft sightseeing operations, provided that:

  • All passengers are informed, prior to departure, of how they should pack for their trip and the importance of the layer system and how to dress for the conditions.
  • The company provides all passengers with a packing list which includes full body polar clothing. It is recommended that the outer layer have a 15000 mm water resistance and a highly visible red or yellow colour.
  • The passenger’s outer layer clothes are checked and approved by the ship’s crew before the passengers are allowed to enter the small craft. A pre-trip video webinar is recommended.
  • There is at least one dedicated rescue boat on the water at all times during operation.
  • The passenger ship has medical personnel (a medical doctor or nurse) on board.
  • The distance from each vessel to the mother ship shall be a maximum of 1 nautical mile. The distance can be 2.5 nautical miles if the dedicated rescue boat has on board enough thermal protective aids (TPA) for the total number of persons on board the largest sightseeing craft.
  • Each person is wearing a lifejacket with more than 150 N buoyancy. The lifejackets shall be supplied by the company. It is recommended to use lifejackets approved to level 275 (ISO 12402-2) or a SOLAS approved lifejacket.


  1. The Regulations of 14 January 2020 No. 63 on vessels of less than 24 meters carrying 12 passengers or less that entered into force on 1 February do not change the legal status of tender vessels.

    Since 2009, the Regulations have had a clear distinction between tender activities and other activities. The actual use of a vessel determines which rules apply. A vessel that is not used for transporting passengers between ship and shore is not a tender vessel. For such activities, e.g. excursions or sightseeing, the rules for carrying passengers apply. This is the same understanding that we find in international legislation, e.g. MSC.1 /Circ.1417 and Directive 2017/2108/EC.

    The now repealed Regulations of 24 November 2009 No. 1400 on the operation of vessels carrying 12 passengers or less, etc. did not apply to "tender vessels", see section 1.2 (f). A tender vessel was defined as a "vessel carrying passengers to and from a larger vessel and which is regarded as part of the vessel's equipment", see section 2 (i).

    The new Regulations do not apply to "vessels which form a part of the ship's equipment and are used to transport passengers between ship and shore", see section 1.2 (b).</li