Project for estimating exposure time in polar regions

Status: Active

This graph shows the route of a hypothetical vessel and the incident location, as well as the average exposure times along the route if a rescue crew were deployed by air.

The NRC is working with partners to develop a methodology for estimating exposure times in polar regions to better understand the amount of time people could be required to rely on life-saving appliances like enclosed lifeboats, while awaiting rescue.


The International Maritime Organization’s International Code for Ships Operating in Polar Waters (the Polar Code) currently stipulates that the maximum expected time of rescue in a maritime emergency must be no less than 5 days. This means all the equipment in a lifeboat must be functional for at least the maximum expected time of rescue, or exposure time. This project is establishing a generalized methodology based on previous NRC work to allow other polar nations to estimate exposure time for their areas of interest


  • A generalized methodology that will allow other polar nations to estimate exposure time
  • A tool that allows polar nations to estimate exposure time based on input from local search-and-rescue resources


  • Review existing NRC work that estimated exposure time in the Canadian Arctic, considering variables in the calculation of exposure time, such as:
    • rescue craft speed, capacity, and range
    • proximity of bases and ports to the route of interest
    • the number of individuals awaiting rescue
    • the number of survival craft deployed

    This review will also include other factors related to search-and-rescue response, including:

    • time to deploy a task force
    • time to receive communications
    • search and rescue time
  • Adapt the methodology so it can be used by other countries to estimate exposure time in their own regions
  • Program the generalized methodology into a computer program to facilitate calculations for various example scenarios



  • This methodology will allow polar nations to estimate exposure time, in order to carefully consider the level of performance required from life-saving appliances that will be used in their regions of interest/responsibility
  • Specific project results will include:
    • a technical report summarizing details of exposure time methodology
    • a software program for calculating estimated exposure time
    • an information paper submitted to the International Maritime Organization (IMO)

Project team

Caitlin Piercey (student)



Contact us

Martin Richard
Director, Research and Development
Telephone: 709-772-8750