The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has recently approved the "Polar Code," a guide for ships in polar waters operations invites countries to adhere to these rules on a voluntary basis to be in effect as of January 1st 2011 and establishe regulations for cruise ships that travel to Antarctica.
This code aims to control cruise tourism to Antarctica to avoid environmental damage. The new law regulates security measures, and fuel treatment. Its implementation will be voluntary from 2011 and could limit future passenger numbers. This code is added to another 800 issued by IMO throughout its history and relates to aspects of maritime safety and marine pollution prevention before.
The new "Polar Code" is similar to those already existing for ships going to the Arctic and "revolutionize" the market of this area, to further regulate its development in a clear action to avoid damage to the marine environment.
The voluntary legislation, aims to improve the safety measures for the people and avoid search events at the poles. This will set standards for fire equipment, life jackets and navigation equipment. It also suggests the existence of trained teams to act in case of shipwreck and rescue of passengers at the Antarctic sea.
The document and its recommendations could become a future request to limit the number of passengers on each ship, and that ships use a more volatile fuel with easy evaporation, such as marine gas oil (MGO) that is environmentally friendly. In addition, are improvements in water treatment systems on board, accommodations and measures exhaust, among other aspects, which could leave some ships out of the circuit.
Currently, the IAATO (International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators) suggests that vessels traveling to Antarctica should carry no more than 500 people, including passengers and crew. In this season is estimated that 40 cruise ships will make trips to this continent. Last season were 37 thousand tourists who were admitted mainly from Argentina and Chile and to a lesser extent from New Zealand, Australia or South Africa. In Chile dozen of ships operate, but the majority departs from Ushuaia (Argentina).
The bases of the member countries of the Antarctic Treaty and other scientific outposts, especially in the South Shetland Islands, are the most visited by tourists. 47 thousand tourists arrived to the Antarctic continent during the 2008-2009 season. 90% of cruises to Antarctica depart from the port of Ushuaia in Argentina. 14 million square kilometers attract tourism to the White Continent.