The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) and two IAATO Member Operators, Aurora Expeditions and Oceanwide Expeditions, took part in a live search and rescue communications exercise in collaboration with the Maritime Rescue Coordination Center (MRCC) Ushuaia, Argentina.

The intent of the training exercise was to test the lines of communication between the ship in distress, MRCC Ushuaia and a vessel tasked with going to the incident area to assist.

In the scenario, the Polar Pioneer operated by Aurora Expeditions, sent out a distress call from the South Shetland Islands off the Antarctic Peninsula after losing propulsion due to its propeller being entangled in a fishing net. The ship was carrying 64 passengers and 26 crew. In response, MRCC Ushuaia identified Oceanwide Expeditions’ 116-passenger ship Plancius as being the nearest vessel and tasked it with going to assist.

IAATO Executive Director Dr. Kim Crosbie said “Search and rescue response in Antarctica is always a collaborative effort and we have a strong relationship with the five maritime rescue coordination centers that have responsibility in Antarctica. Live exercises such as this one provide valuable training opportunities, strengthen ties and demonstrate our ability to communicate in remote locations.

“Although we hope that these events are rare, IAATO’s role in collaboration with its member operators and the MRCCs is to ensure that we are ready to assist in any response quickly and effectively if they do occur.”