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New Zealand hosts meeting on ship-borne Antarctic tourism

December 9, 2009 - WELLINGTON

The country that serves as the main gateway to the frozen continent hosts the Antarctic Treaty Meeting of Experts (ATME) on the management of ship-borne tourism. The experts will be looking at ways to to limit threats to the frozen continent from too many visitors, oil spills, grounded ships and other accidents. Mandatory limits to the size of cruise ships and number of visitors are under consideration, but the tour industry can be expected to push back against non-voluntary measures.

The country that serves as the main gateway to the frozen continent hosts the Antarctic Treaty Meeting of Experts (ATME) on the management of ship-borne tourism. The experts will be looking at ways to to limit threats to the frozen continent from too many visitors, oil spills, grounded ships and other accidents. Mandatory limits to the size of cruise ships and number of visitors are under consideration, but the tour industry can be expected to push back against mandated measures. The recommendations of the meeting will be presented to the XXXIII Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting in Uruguay in May. The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators says visits have risen from 6,700 in the 1992-93 season to 29,500 in the 2006-07 season and 45,213 in 2008-09. The organization points to the guidelines it has established for its tour-and cruise-operator members to protect the Antarctic environment, and suggests the real problem lies with unaffiliated cruise and tour operators. IAATO sends representatives to Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings each year, and can be expected to be present in force at the New Zealand meeting. IAATO notes that the Antarctic tourism industry is generally considered to have begun in the late 1950s when Chile and Argentina took more than 500 fare-paying passengers to the South Shetland Islands aboard a naval transportation ship. The concept of 'expedition cruising,' coupled with education as a major theme, began when Lars-Eric Lindblad led the first traveler's expedition to Antarctica in 1966. From an industry he began in 1966, according to IAATO, Lindblad's model of expedition cruising is still followed today by the majority of companies operating ship-borne tourism to Antarctica. Oct/09

Antarctic Treaty Secretariat web

Date written/update: 2009-12-09