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Southern Spars - North Technology

Sailors Using Information from Trip Planning to the White Continent

by Debra Kelman Loew on 16 Mar 2011
Ice build-up on yacht sailing in Antarctica region. Courtesy of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO)
Since IAATO launched a new public awareness campaign in 2010 for those hoping to visit Antarctica independently on a yacht or motor vessel with 12 or fewer people, it has shared its expertise and resources with many in this independent-minded community.

Unlike the commercial tourism sector, where marketing, staffing and operational requirements make planning — usually years in advance — a vital necessity, the private yachting crowd can more often be described as spontaneous and spur-of-the-moment when deciding where next to point their bow. It is not unusual for a yachtsman to listen to the chatter in Ushuaia, Puerto Williams or Punta Arenas and suddenly decide that Antarctica sounds like a great adventure.

Unfortunately, since many of these sailors have limited experience sailing in polar regions, they also have minimal exposure to the myriad preparations involved with properly planning and executing such a journey.

The IAATO outreach program was created in response to several incidents caused by unauthorized yachts that resulted in damage to the environment as well as important historic sites.

'Because some of these individuals lacked ready access to important protocols and guidelines that IAATO members have been following for years, there have been some incidents that could have been avoided,' notes Skip Novak, chair of the IAATO yacht working group. 'Those of us who are IAATO yacht operators cross paths with these private boats all the time, and have tried various means to encourage them to be properly authorized, prepared and instep with relevant guidelines and restrictions.'

'It prompted us to make our information and resources available — free, but in a more formal and systematic way — to non-IAATO yachtsmen, who would obviously benefit from having this information and making sound decisions about whether to go or not,' he added.

The outreach campaign included the creation of multilingual posters and pamphlets — in English, French and Spanish — which features basic guidelines as well as links to governmental contacts for permits and other vital information. Displayed at yacht clubs and port facilities in Chile, Argentina and the Falklands/Malvinas — the most common launching points for yacht expeditions to Antarctica — the information has been well received.

Patricia Galvin, operations manager for the Ushuaia port agent Navalia and an IAATO member, added that the yacht information is timely. 'Those of us familiar with the regular ships and commercial yachts in the region have noticed an increase in private yacht traffic, with more and more seemingly intent on sailing to the Antarctic Peninsula. It is in everyone's best interest that they know what they are getting into, and be permitted by their national authority or flag state for such a trip.'

She added, 'Of course, it is the private yachts that have not indicated their plans to sail south which are a bigger concern, so our hope is the IAATO poster and pamphlets will act as a warning of sorts, to make them aware of the bigger issues involved.'

www.IAATO.org/yachts
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