Following on the recent incident with the Ocean Nova, the Foreign Minister of New Zealand, Murray McCully, called for greater regulation of Antarctic shipping before a disaster occurs. He noted that the industry is growing rapidly but is not well-regulated, which could lead to accidents that harm both the environment and human life. Minister McCully also warned the cruise industry to keep in mind that the Southern Ocean is dangerous and difficult to reach in an emergency situation.
New Zealand's proactive position on Antarctic shipping is highly welcome. Currently, only the states who are party to the Antarctic Treaty have any authority to regulate tourism, but the Antarctic Treaty System does not have a comprehensive tourism policy. New Zealand is one of the 47 countries that have signed the Antarctic Treaty. At this year's Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting, the United Kingdom will submit a paper that is a first step towards developing a more unified policy on tourism. Hopefully other treaty parties will heed New Zealand's warning that only stronger regulatory action can prevent a human and environmental tragedy.