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S.Georgia : IAATO Report from the April South Georgia Newsletter
Submitted by Falkland Islands News Network (Juanita Brock) 25.05.2013 (Article Archived on 08.06.2013)

Two officials from GSGSSI attended the recent International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) conference in Punta Arenas, Chile between April 22 and 24th.

IAATO Report from
the April South Georgia Newsletter


Two officials from GSGSSI attended the recent International Association
of Antarctic Tour Operators (IAATO) conference in Punta Arenas, Chile between
April 22 and 24th. Chief Executive Martin Collins and Executive Officer Richard
McKee took the opportunity of addressing tour operators at the meeting to
underline various issues, and highlight coming changes to tourism management in
South Georgia.

The address stated that the summer season had been the busiest to date on a
number of fronts, with many and various projects. Vessels and agencies that
assisted in several ways with the projects, including GSGSSI’s reindeer removal
and SGHT’s Habitat Restoration (rat eradication), were thanked: “Without this
assistance it would not have been possible to complete these important
projects, all of which have the potential to make a very significant and
positive contribution to South Georgia’s ecology, heritage management and
scientific research.”

For tourism though, there was very little variation in the cruise ships’
figures for the 2012/13 season when compared with the season before. This
season there were 51 cruise ship visits carrying 5,792 passengers, but there
was an increase in yacht visits.

Tour operators were asked to remain vigilant to the possibility of bird strike
on their vessels and to take action to avoid this. Bird strike is likely to
become an increasing possibility as the removal of rats from mainland South
Georgia will lead to increased numbers of birds breeding on the Island in the

There was also a reminder that the doctor at KEP was not available to cruise
ships except in “exceptional circumstances” and that “vessels should all be
self-sufficient in every respect, including medical care.” The conference were
told that in future there is likely to be an administrative charge of £300 if
the KEP doctor is called upon to provide medication to visiting ship passengers
or crew.

A decision taken in 2008 to limit access to larger IAATO registered vessels
will change again following improvements to the major incident response
capability at KEP, and stakeholder engagement. IAATO registered vessels
carrying a maximum of 850 passengers will be able to return to South Georgia
and land passengers at Grytviken. The on-going refurbishment of the Nybrakka
Barracks at Grytviken to enable it to be used as a temporary emergency shelter,
is part of the planned works to allow larger passenger vessels to land there.
The works are being jointly funded by the Norwegian and UK Governments as part
of the Scott Amundsen anniversary agreement.

Following the January 2013 inquest into the death of a tourist on the
Shackleton Walk between Fortuna Bay and Stromness, GSGSSI informed IAATO of
their response to the Coroner’s recommendations and suggested actions. Amongst
other things GSGSSI propose to revise the documentation to ensure passengers
have been advised about medical evacuation limitations when visiting South
Georgia. There will be increased monitoring of tourism landings and use of
observers. Failure of operators to adhere to permit conditions could result in
operators being required to make KEP their first port of call at South Georgia
for briefings, or, in extreme cases, a revocation of a visit permit. GSGSSI
will establish a review panel, including representatives of GSGSSI and IAATO
and independent experts, to review existing activities and management
arrangements (in particular extended walks) and make recommendations. GSGSSI
and IAATO will also engage with a medical specialist to conduct a review of
current capabilities and medical arrangements on visiting ships. For the season
ahead (2013/14) cruise ship visit applicants will be required to provide
details of vessel medical facilities and also the capabilities of the on board
doctor. All injuries will also need to be recorded in the Post Visit Report.

You can download the whole GSGSSI briefing to IAATO



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