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Daily Archives: 23. February 2011 − News & Stories

Envi­ron­men­tal impact of expe­di­ti­on crui­sing in Sval­bard

A new stu­dy has been published to assess the envi­ron­men­tal impact of expe­di­ti­on crui­se ships on the Sval­bard envi­ron­ment. The stu­dy has been made by Akva­plan-Niva, a rese­arch orga­ni­sa­ti­on and con­sul­tancy within mari­ne and freshwa­ter envi­ron­ment, and it was encou­ra­ged and sup­port­ed by AECO, an orga­ni­sa­ti­on that repres­ents the expe­di­ti­on crui­se ope­ra­tors in the regi­on. After obser­ving seve­ral smal­ler (70-100 pas­sen­gers) ships in the field, the aut­hors com­pi­led a detail­ed stu­dy con­cer­ning dif­fe­rent aspects of the ope­ra­ti­on. A sum­ma­ry includes the fol­lo­wing points:

  • The envi­ron­men­tal awa­re­ness among­st ship crew, gui­des and pas­sen­gers is descri­bed as high.
  • Ope­ra­ti­on and acti­vi­ties are alre­a­dy strict­ly con­trol­led by laws and self-impo­sed regu­la­ti­ons.
  • Emis­si­ons from smal­ler ship into air and water are “rela­tively low”.
  • Intro­duc­tion of new spe­ci­es in bal­last water, on the ship’s hull or atta­ched to clot­hing can poten­ti­al­ly be very dama­ging. The report sug­gests miti­ga­ti­on mea­su­res.
  • Fur­ther detail­ed stu­dies are nee­ded to assess the impact of repea­ted noi­se and pre­sence of groups on sea­birds and mari­ne mammals.
  • The lar­gest imme­dia­te thre­at to the envi­ron­ment is a major oil spill. Risk ana­ly­sis shows that the likeli­hood of such an event, cau­sed by an expe­di­ti­on crui­se ship, is “rela­tively low”: likely once in 300 years, expec­ted reduc­tion to once in 700 years within a few years once bet­ter charts and tech­no­lo­gy are available. It is con­side­red posi­ti­ve that rele­vant ships all use mari­ne die­sel (MDO/MGO) exclu­si­ve­ly, which is gene­ral­ly assu­med to be far less devas­ta­ting in case of spills com­pared to hea­vy oil, which remains far lon­ger in the envi­ron­ment. Nevert­hel­ess, poten­ti­al dama­ge of oil spill can be very serious, inclu­ding loss of a bree­ding sea­son and adult birds of local sea­bird colo­nies.
  • Actu­al num­bers do not reflect the increase of tou­rism that is often used as argu­ment for pro­po­sed fur­ther rest­ric­tions: the num­bers of per­sons who went ashore, as well as the num­ber of visi­ted sites, has remain­ed lar­ge­ly sta­ble sin­ce 2004/05. Lar­ge over­sea crui­se ships have expe­ri­en­ced rela­tively strong growth, but the­se ships visit main­ly the sett­le­ment and Grav­ne­set in Mag­da­le­nefjord, but hard­ly land pas­sen­gers else­whe­re. The acti­ve ban on hea­vy oil in all pro­tec­ted are­as and the end of tem­po­ra­ry regu­la­ti­ons (allo­wing hea­vy oil on shor­test safe rou­tes to sett­le­ments and into Mag­da­le­nefjord until 2014) is expec­ted to redu­ce the num­ber of lar­ge crui­se ships dra­sti­cal­ly.

Polar Star was one of the ships obser­ved by Akva­plan-Niva

Environmental impact of expedition cruising in Svalbard - Polar Star

Source: Sval­bard Sci­ence Forum, inclu­ding the report by Akva­plan Niva


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