International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) made further recommendations today, designed to enhance marine safety on vessels operated by its members. The additional directives were the outcome of a mid-September meeting in London, UK of the IAATO Marine Committee, and follow recommendations approved earlier this year by the association’s membership.

The follow-up actions resulted from the continued analysis of the Liberian flag-state “Report of Investigation in the Matter of Sinking of Passenger Vessel EXPLORER (O.N. 8495) 23 November, 2007 in the Bransfield Strait near the South Shetland Islands,” as well as the “lessons learned” that were shared by G.A.P Adventures with the Marine Committee since the report’s issuance.

“This further advice calls for an ongoing investment by IAATO vessel operators to ensure the safety of their vessels, crew and passengers while in Antarctic waters,” said Steve Wellmeier, executive director of IAATO. “While they may seem obvious in some respects, the recommendations go beyond the ship’s bridge, and make safety a priority throughout the member company, enlisting the active involvement of appropriate office personnel and encouraging the continual review and adoption of new technologies.”

The new list of actions for IAATO SOLAS passenger vessels operating in the Southern Ocean include: (1) reviewing information services (weather, ice and routing) to ensure the most appropriate data is provided in a timely manner to vessels; (2) regularly review company procedures – including emergency response – to ensure all persons involved have a clear understanding of current Antarctic requirements; (3) staying abreast of, and consider the use of, continued technological developments, such as forward looking sonar and ECDIS; (4) ensuring that onboard drill schedules include regular damage control scenarios related to ice damage, and that control measures consider implications of cold weather environments; and (5) making sure that passenger and crew attention is drawn to the necessity for suitable clothing in conditions that can be severe and inhospitable.

The initial set of recommendations to enhance marine safety, which included changes in standard operating procedures by IAATO vessel operators and modifications to the association’s bylaws to strengthen the requirements for experience for bridge officers, can be found on the IAATO website at: http://www.iaato.org/press.html

“Work remains to be done,” noted Wellmeier. “We continue to work on the development of a forum for the review, discussion and enhancement of IAATO members’ Crisis Management Plans, and are making progress on the Tiered-Risk Assessment Plan. The bulk of the London meeting was spent in further refining the goals and objectives of this plan.” The Tiered-Risk Assessment is a multifaceted plan that will allow vessel operators to evaluate risk during voyage planning, preparation and execution phases, with consideration given to seasonal and geographic variations, expected risk, historic and real-time information available (ice, weather, sea conditions), as well as contingency and mitigation measures.

Following further consideration of the “Report of Investigation in the Matter of Sinking of Passenger Vessel EXPLORER (O.N. 8495) 23 November 2007 in the Bransfield Strait near the South Shetland Islands” and related documents, the IAATO Marine Committee recommends the following actions for their vessel operators:

1. Review weather, ice and routeing information services to ensure the most appropriate available information is provided in a timely manner to their vessel(s).

2. Carry out a regular review of company procedures, including emergency response, to ensure all persons involved have a clear understanding of current Antarctic requirements.

3. Operators should stay abreast of, and consider use of, continued technological developments, such as forward-looking sonar and ECDIS.

4. Ensure onboard drill schedules include regular damage control scenarios related to ice damage. Control measures should consider the implications of cold weather environments.

5. When entering the Southern Ocean, make sure that passenger and crew attention is drawn to the necessity for suitable clothing in conditions that can be severe and inhospitable. Operators of SOLAS passenger vessels also should take action to strongly encourage passengers to observe the weekly crew abandon ship drill and fire drill (see SOLAS Paragraph B Chapter III Regulation 30.21).