As a member of the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators, Waterproof Expeditions has closely followed the COVID-19 related restrictions for travel to Antarctica. In March of this year, the expedition cruise season in Antarctica came to a sudden halt. Ships had to come back from the continent halfway through their journey and in some cases were not able to return to port. To avoid such situations in the future, IAATO and its members have taken numerous steps to determine if a 2020/21 Antarctic season is feasible in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This included forming a COVID-19 Advisory Group to connect with the Gateway Ports (local authorities) regarding the possibilities for safe travel to Antarctica during COVID-19 and to keep the virus out of Antarctica.
Despite all the work that has been undertaken to try to make this season work, most IAATO operators have decided to postpone travel for the upcoming Antarctica season. The main reasons being the operational challenges that this pandemic presents. We are still in the early stages of a recovery and at this moment there is no risk-free way to continue business as usual in the coming months.
While the pandemic has disrupted what we do, it has not changed who we are. We still advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible travel to Antarctica. IAATO members already operate under strict international rules and regulations and IAATO’s own bylaws and procedures. IAATO emphasizes that any future operations are to include strict COVID-19 management protocols to keep both guests and the continent safe from COVID-19.
We are encouraged by recent developments, such as vaccines and rapid testing. And as more is understood about the virus, the means to protect ourselves and the environment will become clearer. In time, we will return to the region we love so much.
Waterproof Cruises & Expeditions is a member of IAATO, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators. IAATO is a member organization founded in 1991 to advocate and promote the practice of safe and environmentally responsible private-sector travel to the Antarctic. IAATO members work together to develop, adopt and implement operational standards that mitigate potential environmental impacts.