9 Dec 2009

Conference on prevention of Antarctic tourism disasters

3:35 pm on 9 December 2009

Ways to prevent Antarctic tourism causing a large scale humanitarian or environmental disaster will be discussed at a conference starting in Wellington on Wednesday.

The meeting of Antarctic experts follows the 2007 sinking of the Explorer off King George Island, 120km off Antarctica.

Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says the sinking is evidence that the guidelines tourism operators work to are not strict enough.

He is backed by Maritime New Zealand which wants a code that would prevent vessels working in the Antarctic and Arctic waters if they do not meet safety requirements.

The agency hopes new rules would better manage the risk to human life as well as the environment.

There have been four serious incidents involving tourist ships in the area in the past three years.

New Zealand is responsible for managing any emergency in a large area of the Antarctic waters.