Manchester, Sept. 8 (Reuters): Although tourism to Antarctica is still small by global standards, it is growing rapidly and scientists said today travelling to the region could pose dangers for people and the environment.
In the past decade the number of tourists visiting the last great wilderness on the planet has doubled to 13,500 and could reach 27,000 visitors a year as more cruise ships venture into the icy waters.
“The biggest concern for the British Antarctic Survey (BAS) is the safety aspect. We now have some very large cruise ships going to Antarctica.”
“This year we will probably have four to five large ships with a thousand people on board and several of those ships are not ice strengthened,” John Shears, the environmental officer of the BAS, told a science meeting.
He and his colleagues said that if there was an accident or a ship collided with an iceberg, there would be problems with health and rescue operations in the area and clearing up any spills from the vessels.
The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators has strict regulations for its members but some tour ships are outside the organisation.
Shears told the British Association science festival that safety regulations and controls and shipping standards were needed to protect all tourists.