Statement on Antarctic Cruise Ship Sinking

Statement on Antarctic Cruise Ship Sinking

For Immediate Release

Contact: Nick Berning, 202-222-0748

Friends of the Earth responded to the sinking of the MS Explorer, a Canadian cruise ship, in Antarctic waters on Friday by applauding the rescue efforts but warning that the sinking may be a sign of rough waters ahead as more cruise ships visit this remote polar region.

“This is a wake-up call for the cruise industry and governments to more closely monitor and regulate increasing cruise ship traffic in Antarctica,” said Teri Shore, Clean Vessels Consultant for Friends of the Earth. “It is both a safety and an environmental issue.”

This year 33,000 people will visit the Antarctic region, up from about 7,400 a decade ago, according to the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO). However, there are no enforceable standards to limit the number of size of cruise ships transiting Antarctic waters. A resolution to control cruise ship traffic was passed by the Antarctic Treaty Organization earlier this year, but it is not mandatory.

Other environmental regulations are either weak or not well enforced. For example, cruise ship sewage that is treated and raw graywater can be dumped legally. Last season an expedition crew documented illegal dumping of garbage by a cruise ship in Antarctic waters, but no action was ever taken to penalize the offending vessel.