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How IAATO Works

Liaisons with External Organizations

Liaisons with External Organizations

Governments and Regulators

Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCMs)

Perhaps the most important external liaison that IAATO has is with the governments who are active in Antarctica. A multilateral treaty involving circa 50 countries governs Antarctica and representatives meet on an annual basis to discuss matters of common interest. Twenty-eight of these countries are “Consultative” Parties and work on the basis of consensus in the regulation and management of activities in the Antarctic Treaty Area. Representatives of the other nations participate as “Non-consultative Parties” who participate in the meetings but do not have voting status.

The Antarctic Treaty of 1959 has proved very effective in working towards its key objectives to conserving Antarctica as a natural reserve dedicated to peace and science. However, IAATO has a critical role to play in terms of the day-to-day management of the private-sector tourism industry, and coordination and recording of tourism-related activities that take place in the region. The ATCMs take place annually in varying locations, depending upon which Consultative Party is hosting the meeting.

Participation by IAATO as an invited “Expert” at the ATCMs is critical in furthering the Association’s goals and mission. From IAATO’s perspective, the privilege of participating in these and other high-level government meetings illustrates the ability—and recognition—of industry to self-manage Antarctic tourism in a safe and environmentally responsible way and, where appropriate, promote issues or raise concerns and defend the industry’s best practices.

At each ATCM, IAATO reports on the latest developments in industry best-practice and IAATO member activities by way of the submission of Information Papers. It also engages in discussions on the development of any additional tourism-related management or regulatory frameworks that the Consultative Parties may be considering.

Committee for Environmental Protection

Running concurrent to each ATCM, a meeting takes place of the Committee for Environmental Protection (CEP). This Committee was established under the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty (often referred to as the “Environmental Protocol” or simply the “Protocol”) and is tasked with providing advice and formulating recommendations to the Parties to ensure the mechanisms inherent in the Protocol are upheld (e.g. review of Comprehensive Environmental Evaluations, Protected Areas assignment and reviews, protection of the native flora and fauna, etc.) IAATO has “Observer” status to the CEP and as such is permitted to submit Information Papers relevant to the work of the CEP.

Other Multilateral External Meetings:

In addition to the ATCMs, IAATO sends representatives to a series of other international meetings each year. Participation varies depending on the discussions and priorities of the organization. While these do vary annually, the following meetings are usually attended:

  • Hydrographic Commission for Antarctica (HCA) – this is a meeting of those nations who have volunteered to take over responsibility for the navigational charting of specific areas in Antarctica. The meeting takes place annually in varying locations, depending on the hosting nation. As hydrography is perceived as being a key priority item for Treaty Parties and IAATO’s vessel operators, one or two representatives attend the meeting annually.
  • International Maritime Organisation (IMO) – the IMO is a specialized agency of the United Nations with 169 Member States and three Associate Members. The IMO’s primary purpose is to develop and maintain a comprehensive regulatory framework for shipping and its remit today includes safety, environmental concerns, legal matters, technical co-operation, maritime security and the efficiency of shipping. IAATO’s attendance at IMO meetings is through the Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), of which several of IAATO Members belong. Participation is again dictated by the topics under discussion; e.g. the mandatory Polar Code currently under discussion.

Terms of Reference for IAATO Delegates to ATCM or other International Meetings

IAATO delegates to ATCMs do not form a committee or working group as recognized in the Bylaws, but they do work closely together in the months prior to each ATCM, with particular focus on the tourism-related issues that will be deliberated by Treaty Parties.

Currently, the Antarctic tourism industry is represented by participation on the IAATO delegation itself, or by IAATO representatives participating as advisors on a particular Treaty Party’s delegation on an invitation basis. The core duties set out in the Terms of Reference for Delegates to ATCM are primarily intended for IAATO delegates attending the ATCMs, but are generally applicable for industry advisors at other multinational meetings.

Scientific Community

Under Antarctic Treaty designation, science is the priority activity in Antarctica. The continent has unique value to scientific research and, for example, may provide many clues to our changing climate.

Within IAATO, under Bylaws Article II, Section J, members have agreed to support this science priority, while acknowledging that with this priority comes responsibility – i.e. IAATO members will endeavor to support scientific work in Antarctica, but will also expect the science community to lead by example in terms of protecting and respecting the Antarctic environment and upholding the agreements of the Antarctic Treaty.

IAATO members can support the scientific community through a variety of means. This can be by:

  • Assisting with data collection (such as whale sightings),
  • Raising money to support specific science-related projects (such as the work of Oceanites),
  • Transporting scientists to their place of work – be that research stations or field sites or in some cases, carrying scientists for one or more voyages while they collect data.

While IAATO does have a suggested standard rate to charge scientists for passage on board its fleet of member vessels, it is up to each individual company how any pro bono science support is given.

Every year, the support that IAATO members provide to the scientific community is tallied by the Secretariat from the End of Season Report Forms submitted by all IAATO operators.

This information is then summarized in an Information Paper (IP) tabled at the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meetings (ATCM): The Report of the International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators. These IPs can be downloaded in the IAATO and The Antarctic Treaty section of the website.

Some member operators provide logistical support – separate from any commercial tourism activities – to National Antarctic Programs (e.g. flying field scientists into Antarctica, chartering vessels to do station resupplies or donating scientific equipment). This is usually a business arrangement quite separate from tourism activities and so outside the remit of IAATO.

Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP)

The science community in Antarctica is run by a series of National Antarctic Programs. The managers of these programs have bonded together to form the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP). COMNAP meets annually: the location varying depending on the hosting nation. While primarily concerned with National Antarctic Program operational logistics, there is some synergy with IAATO ship, air and land tourism operations both in terms of mutual support but also in terms of development in operating procedures and “lessons learned.” IAATO attendance at COMNAP meetings varies, depending on topics under discussions or specific issues.

Other Trade Associations and General Public

Other Trade Associations

In addition to liaisons with communities outside the tourism industry, IAATO also endeavors to work with other related trade associations. The aim behind this is to ensure that, where appropriate, we can cooperate in terms of key messages to the outside community. These trade associations include:

General Public

Through the public pages of the IAATO website, IAATO communicates important information about Antarctica to the general public. The IAATO mission statement is at the very heart of this communications role, advocating and promoting the concept of safe and environmentally responsible Antarctic travel to all those interested.

Two of the IAATO Objectives address this role very specifically:

Article II, Section H and Section I

IAATO partners with the scientific community to effectively distribute key messages and initiatives to the public through its members’ operations. An example of this is research showing the effects of climate change on the Antarctic environment. IAATO helps to spread the word about such scientific research to Antarctic travelers, capitalizing on their first-hand experiences and receptivity for such information, as well as their propensity to share it with friends and family back home in a manner that often can initiate positive change.

In addition, the Secretariat and individual member representatives participate in forums, conferences and workshops for those interested in Antarctic tourism, and submit articles for publication in both scientific journals and the popular press.