Antarctic crackdown on cruise ships

The US wants tougher controls for ships going to the ice, writes Mike Heard.

Cruise lines may soon face tighter controls on their Antarctic activities. The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, has called for mandatory limits on the size of ships sailing there and on the number of passengers allowed ashore.

Antarctic tour operators already have a voluntary code of conduct similar to what the US is demanding but two Antarctic groundings during the most recent cruise season and the entry of bigger liners into the market have heightened fears of a disaster involving a large-scale loss of life.

More than 150 passengers and crew from the cruise ship Explorer spent hours adrift in freezing waters after the ship hit an iceberg and sank during a voyage in November 2007.

The US call came during a conference last week of the 28 nations, including Australia, party to the 50-year-old Antarctic Treaty. The US wants ships carrying more than 500 passengers to be banned from landing sites and no more than 100 passengers to be allowed ashore at one time, with a minimum of one guide for every 20 tourists.

Antarctic tourism has soared from 6700 visitors in the 1992-93 season to 45,213 in the season just ended.

Take the tube

Social networking meets the high seas with the launch of CruiseTube. The site carries ship reviews, itineraries, photos and general information. Chief executive Peter Rooney says it enables first-time cruisers, in particular, to make shipboard friends even before they embark. Afterwards, they can share pictures and perhaps plan another holiday. See cruisetube.com.

Exclusive Anzac voyage

Advertisement

The French travel company Ponant will operate a cruise to Gallipoli next April exclusively for Australians and New Zealanders wanting to attend Anzac Day services.

The seven-day trip starts in Piraeus (Athens) and ends in Istanbul, spending two days on the Gallipoli peninsula.

Fares, starting at $6133 a person, twin share, include transport to the dawn service on April 25. Phone 1300 857 437.

Send cruise news to cruisenews@fairfax.com.au.

Comments