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Falkland Islands News Network - Financial Information and News

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M/S EXPLORER Situation Report

November 23, 2007
by Alan Huckle





Situation Report:


·        M/S Explorer suffered unknown emergency overnight in the Antarctic. Position: 62 degrees 24 minute South and 57 degrees 16 minutes west, between South Shetlands and Grahams Land, in the Bransfield Strait).  UK Coastguard notified at 0524hrs GMT.

·        Passengers have abandoned the ship and are in the lifeboats.  Reports indicate that the Captain and First Officer only have remained on board.  The ship is reported to be listing at 20-25 degrees.

·        International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) co-ordinating response of other ships in vicinity.  Reports indicate M/S Endeavor has arrived on the scene.  M/S Antarctic Dream and M/S Nordnorge are on route. 

·        Weather conditions are not clear – it is reportedly fair (but likely to be around freezing);

·        154 people involved (100 passengers and 54 cruise/ship staff/expedition staff). 23 British passengers .

·        No British Government vessels are in the vicinity.  Three cruise ships are, however, on route to the M/S Explorer.

·        No details as yet as to the reason for the ship to be evacuated.


Antarctic Tourism:


·        Tourism is a legitimate activity under the Antarctic Treaty.  The Antarctic Treaty Protocol on Environmental Protection, 1991, requires all activities in Antarctica to be planned to minimise environmental impacts;

·        In 2004, the Treaty Parties also agreed to require all tourism activities in Antarctica to demonstrate self-sufficient search and rescue and contingency plans.  The UK has enacted this requirement into domestic legislation.


International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators:

·        International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO): the vast majority of Antarctic tour operators are members.  IAATO establishes a self-regulation framework to set standards for tourism activities in Antarctica.  All members agree to co-ordinate search and rescue and contingency plans for emergencies.  The parent companies of M/S Explorer, and the three ships on route to the vessel, are members of IAATO.

·        The Antarctic Treaty Parties have asked the IMO to consider Guidelines for Antarctic Shipping.  This includes provisions on ship suitability and emergency equipment. 

·        At the last Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting (in New Delhi in May 2006), the UK presented a paper with proposals to tighten the contingency plans of cruise ships.  This included a proposal that cruise ships ‘pair’ with other nearby ships, in order that response vessels are within a reasonable sailing distance.  This was not adopted by the meeting, because of concerns about the impact on the cruise industry. 

·        The Antarctic Treaty Parties are also continuing to work on the issue of cruise ship safety in Antarctica. 


British Antarctic Territory:


·        The M/S Explorer is in the waters of the British Antarctic Territory.  The UK is party to the Antarctic Treaty, 1959, which puts all territorial claims in abeyance and provides for an international framework of governance for the continent.



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