UK Foreign Office: ‘ Arctic Cruises are dangerous’
Thursday, 26. April 2012, 20:37
Questions have been raised about cruise safety in the Arctic after the Foreign Office warned tourists that 'search-and-rescue capabilities are limited due to the large distances between populated areas'.
In a posting last updated on April 20, the FCO focuses on issues such as evacuation transport and medical care, highlighting the region's inhospitable climate, even in summer, as factors visitors should be aware of.
The advice states: 'Currently, the combined search and rescue ship capacity may well be less than would be needed to cope with even one of the small cruise ships that frequent parts of the Arctic area.'
The posting urges travellers to 'check the operational records and relevant experience of captains and crews' on ships.
A spokesperson said the Foreign Office was placing increasing importance on 'crisis preparedness' with an 'obligation' to raise potential dangers. But tour operators have reacted angrily to the alert.
Paul Goldstein, of adventure company Exodus, told the Independent that the posting was 'completely out of order'.
He said: 'Exodus has never had clients involved in an incident involving either animals or ice in Spitsbergen. We are disappointed by the negative publicity this ridiculous warning will generate.'
Penny Guy, of the Passenger Shipping Association, said she was 'surprised' by the advice, moving to reassure cruise enthusiasts.
She said in the event of an incident, there were strict regulations covering 'search and rescue, and distress and safety communications.'
Ms Guy told TravelMail: 'Many UK holidaymakers take cruises to areas such as the Antarctic, Arctic, Greenland and Iceland and have done so for many years.
'Ships comply with international and Safety Of Life At Sea (SOLAS) regulations and standards, including navigational and safety equipment.'
She said that there were 'structural requirements' for cruise ships, which included any strengthening of their hulls to combat ice in polar waters.
Ms Guy added: 'Ships’ crews undergo rigorous and frequent scenario training to cover all possible ship incidents, including ship evacuation in all possible conditions.'
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