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Cruise safety concerns in Antactica re-emerge

Cruise ship safety in Antarctica has been called into question following the grounding of Ocean Nova.

The Danish vessel became stranded off the coast of Antarctica, highlighting once again the perils of cruising in the world’s toughest climate.There were 65 passengers and 41 crew onboard the stricken vessel, and all were moved safely to the Clipper Adventurer, which was continuing the journey to Ushuaia, Argentina.
The grounding follows a series of incidents with cruise vessels in the region, including the sinking of MV Explorer, and the grounding of MV Ushaia and MS Nordkapp in the past couple of year.

Visitor numbers to the Antarctic have risen considerably over the past few years, up 22 percent between 2006/7 and 2007/8 - up from 37,552 to 46,069. Climate change is also feared to be another factor, allowing cruise ships to visit areas they previously been unable to reach.

While the Ocean Nova had a reinforced hull, bigger cruise liners frequently enter into Antarctic waters without the same protection.

The International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) aims to encourage safe tourism to the continent, although there are concerns over its powers to control the behaviour of cruise ships. Without a traditional government in Antarctica, there is no real way to enforce rules that would stop cruise ships from sightseeing.