The 32nd Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting concluded yesterday in Baltimore, with Treaty Parties adopting 13 new and revised plans for Antarctic Specially Protected and Managed Areas, 8 new Site Guidelines for tourism (bringing the total to 26), and making mandatory a variety of tourism controls — no landings by vessels carrying more than 500 passengers, no more than one vessel landing at a visitor site at any one time, limiting the number of passengers ashore at any one time to 100, and requiring operators to maintain a 1-to-20 guide-to-passenger ratio while ashore.

During the second week of the Meeting, a representative of the Liberian Government presented a investigative report of the sinking of the EXPLORER in 2007. As mentioned in a previous OCEANITES FEED blog, this sobering report places considerable blame on the captain and operating company. No lives were lost, but the report makes it abundantly clear that, had there not been good weather at the time of the accident, a far greater tragedy would have occurred. The report makes a series of recommendations regarding safety requirements in polar regions (immersion suits for all passengers, partially enclosed lifeboats, fully trained and experienced officers/crew) and prompted the Treaty Parties’ agreement to write the International Maritime Organisation, expressing a desire that IMO commence work and, as soon as practicable, develop mandatiory safety requirements for vessels operating in Antarctic waters.