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Member Obligations



Marketing and Planning

Operators, Provisional Operators and Associates are all requested to ensure that their marketing materials are consistent with the obligations set out in the Bylaws.

In addition, there is a specific request to members’ marketing departments: The IAATO Wilderness Etiquette – which is also found in Part I, Section 5 of the FOM – asks that over time, companies phase out of brochures and other marketing materials direct mention of specific sites (e.g., Deception Island, Paradise Bay, etc.) to reduce the pressure for all vessels to visit these sites on every departure.

Authorization Process

As stated in Article III, Section B of the Bylaws, Operators and Provisional Operators are required to go through an authorization process with their respective National Authority. IAATO requires copies of these documents, along with the final authorization or acknowledgement letter, to be submitted to the Secretariat before the start of the operator’s Antarctic season.

Also, as stated in Article III, Section B, if the organizer is registered in a country that is not Party to the Antarctic Treaty, or whose country has not yet implemented the Environmental Protocol, the organizer must submit the equivalent required documentation to the IAATO Secretariat no later than 30 days prior to the commencement of the organizer’s first program of the season.

Ship Scheduler


Category 1 and 2 vessel operators (carrying not more than 500 passengers) and Category 7 organizers of sailing (e.g., yachts) or motor vessels carrying 12 or fewer passengers are asked to log their planned itineraries into the IAATO Ship Scheduler in advance of the operating season. For those who operate Category 1 & 2 vessels on the Antarctic Peninsula this is a particularly important mechanism to help ensure that no two ships are booked at the same place at the same time.

Cruise-only vessels (Category 3) making no landings and Category 7 organizers are also asked to input their schedules, although Category 7 organizers can simply enter a region (e.g., Antarctic Peninsula) rather than the specific sites they intend to visit. This is because these itineraries tend to be more flexible and less predictable with respect to weather. Category 7 organizers are not required to pre-schedule the specific sites they intend to visit.

The Ship Scheduler is also set up to limit the number of landed visits per day in line with Antarctic Treaty Site Guidelines for Visitors. Site visits are allocated on a first-come first-served basis once the scheduler opens.

How to Access the Scheduler

The Ship Scheduler is accessible through the Field Operations section of the IAATO Website. Each operator is given a company-specific username and password for each vessel that they operate. In order to ensure equanimity in the system, only one computer can log in under each username at a time. A user manual for the Ship Scheduler can be found on the landing page of the scheduler once you have logged in. For anyone new to the Ship Scheduler process, this manual will answer many of your questions.

When the Ship Scheduler Opens for Site Bookings

The Ship Scheduler usually opens on a Wednesday around the end of June or beginning of July for the following season. The actual date is dictated by the timetable of the IAATO Annual Meeting and the ATCM, and can be found on the Events tab of the IAATO Calendar. The date is also circulated to all Operators by email approximately six months before the opening takes place.

In order to minimize the load on the system, we usually request that organizers of sailing or motor vessels, cruise-only vessels and East Antarctica /Ross Sea vessel operators wait until after the initial opening of the Ship Scheduler as there is less pressure on them to book their sites.

How to Prepare

Well in advance of the opening, an email of annual updates will be sent around to the operators confirming the date and start time that the Scheduler opens and providing a link to a dedicated “practice” site for those who are new to the scheduling process or who want to refresh their memory on how the scheduler works. Using this practice site and being familiar with the user manual and the memo of annual updates will help ensure that those responsible for loading site-specific itineraries into the scheduler will be as well prepared as possible for the actual opening.

In advance of the opening, operators are encouraged to load the core information about their voyages. This includes their turnaround ports and dates, the name(s) of the expedition leader(s) and, importantly, the voyage number which is made up of a unique three letter code allocated to each vessel and the voyage start date in DDMMYYYY (e.g. OCN02NOV2013 would apply to the m/v Ocean Nova sailing on 02 November 2013).

When Does the Scheduler Close and Who Has Access to the Information?

After the initial input of data, operators have approximately 10 weeks to fine-tune their itineraries and/or change data. IAATO usually will close the Ship Scheduler in the last week of September. After this date, any additional changes to itineraries are made in the field between the Expedition Leaders without necessarily involving the IAATO Secretariat. The exception to this is with respect to major changes such as canceled or additional voyages, additional vessels, changes to vessels, etc.

Once the Ship Scheduler has been closed, the official pre-season schedule is generated and is emailed to members as part of the IAATO Field Operations Manual. In addition, pre-season schedules, along with other selected information, is circulated to Maritime Rescue Coordination Centres (MRCCs), the Secretariat of the Council of Managers of National Antarctic Programs (COMNAP) and selected others. This is done on the basis of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with IAATO which does not allow that data to be circulated beyond their immediate organization.

Vessel Database


IAATO maintains a database for all vessel operators to load the technical information for their vessels. This includes a wide range of information including the vessel’s ice class, flag state, classification society, life-saving equipment, fuel used, communication details, etc. A list of the technical information which is requested in the vessel database can be found here.

What is the Information Used For?

The vessel information stored in the database is used for a variety of purposes. This includes generating the annual contact sheet for those vessels operating in the field (including email addresses, telephone and fax numbers, MMSI numbers, Call Signs, etc.). In addition, the IAATO Secretariat uses it as a resource for information when involved in negotiations with the IMO or Antarctic Treaty Parties at the ATCMs. Lastly, the MRCCs also have access to the database so that if an incident occurs and an IAATO vessel is called upon to assist, those coordinating the rescue know what assets are available to them (e.g., the number of beds, medical facilities, helicopter capability, diving capability, etc.)

How do I Access the Vessel Database?

Find the vessel database in the Who We Are section of the website, or by logging into your portal. The same username and password which Operators use to access the Ship Scheduler can be used to login to the Vessel Database.

Operator Obligation

It is the obligation of each operator to ensure that the data stored in the vessel database (communications, etc.) is kept up-to-date. This information is important for general purposes, but can be critically important in the event of an incident. There is value in reviewing this information annually before the start of the vessel’s Antarctic season.

Vessel-Tracking System

A) Introduction

The IAATO vessel-tracking system was instituted by IAATO as “a next step,” a move beyond standard tracking requirements for SOLAS passenger vessels. The system tracks all IAATO SOLAS passenger vessels as an “IAATO fleet” on a single website that can be monitored by Members, Maritime Rescue Coordination Centers (MRCCs) and relevant government agencies.

While some IAATO Operators participated in the system on a voluntary-basis during the 2007-08 season, the concept gained broad support at the 19th Annual Meeting in 2008. The following year, Operators voted to approve IAATO Actions to Enhance Marine Safety. One of the proposed changes in standard operating procedure in the approved document was as follows:

IAATO Actions to Enhance Marine Safety

[IAATO 20th Annual Meeting, Providence, RI, June 9, 2009]

The IAATO Marine Committee proposed the following actions, which were subsequently adopted at the 20th Annual Meeting, and which were precipitated by the “Report of Investigation in the Matter of Sinking of 
Passenger Vessel EXPLORER (O.N. 8495) 23 November 2007 in the Bransfield Strait near the South Shetland Islands,” and other recent incidents.

Proposed Changes in Standard Operating Procedures:

  1. Participation in the IAATO vessel tracking scheme with hourly reporting will be a requirement of membership for all IAATO SOLAS passenger vessels while operating in Antarctic waters by October 1, 2010.


  1. “Antarctic waters” refers to that area south of 60 degrees south latitude, at which point hourly reporting is a requirement for IAATO membership.
  2. IAATO yacht operators that carry 12 or fewer passengers are not required to participate in the tracking system.

Important: Some operators choose to use the tracking system as a marketing tool by displaying real-time maps of the vessel’s positions on their corporate websites. For this purpose, the operator must implement a separate proprietary “fleet” at additional cost, and not make the “IAATO fleet” publicly available in this manner.

B) Accessing the Website:

The tracking system is paid for by IAATO member-operators. The real-time information contained on the website is potentially of a commercial-in-confidence nature, and some IAATO members have voiced their concerns regarding the general availability of this data. Accordingly, IAATO requests that Operators do not distribute the fleet name and password outside of their respective organizations.

Fleet: IAATO
Password: Contact the IAATO Secretariat for the current password

C) How Does the Vessel Tracking System Work?

Currently, there are only two IAATO-approved methods of participating in the system:

  1. Purchase the dedicated iridium-based GMN SkyEye Tracker. As of March 2013, the solar-powered Tracker model is no longer available. The newer design model runs on the ship’s power source and has a rechargeable backup battery that can operate for a month or more independent of ship’s power.
  2. Use the ship’s existing positioning system – such as Inmarsat C, Purple Finder – to pass along position information to the GMN database.

Ship positions are logged into the system and portrayed through a dedicated password-protected website. Positions are logged on an hourly basis, but can be “pinged” from shore for positions every 15 minutes in the case of an emergency.

D) What Information is Available and How is it Shown?

By clicking on the vessel’s name in the toolbox, a pop-up box displays an image of the vessel and key information (e.g. vessel call sign and IMO number, position, course and speed). Historic positions are stored on the database, and the website is capable of portraying the positions for up to one month previously on the map. Data can also be linked into Google Earth, where it can be layered with recent ice information (e.g., from Polar View).

E) How is the Information Used?

Marine Rescue Coordination Centers (MRCCs) in Argentina, Australia, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, UK and the Automated Mutual-Assistance Vessel Rescue System (AMVER) have full access to the website. Information on the website can be coupled with detailed contact information for the vessels and the IAATO database, which describes each vessel’s attributes and asset resources in the case of an incident. The tracking system has also proven useful when unidentified distress signals were received by MRCCs who then requested IAATO vessels to deviate and verify the authenticity of the signals.

In the future, the archival data may be used for analysis of the spatial and temporal distribution of IAATO SOLAS passenger vessels, and any related trends over time. This analysis would be useful for tourism-related management and monitoring purposes.

Contact Information

IAATO Operator and Provisional Operator Members that operate SOLAS passenger vessels should contact Global Marine Network (GMN) for installation and activation information. Further details can be found on the xaxero website.

Jonathan Selby
Director – Software Development
Xaxero Marine Software Engineering Ltd

Skype handle: xaxjon

Main Roaming number: +1 205 352 2558 x1001
Satellite Phone: (00) 88163 101 3932

Direct Numbers:
New Zealand Office: (00) 64 (0) 9 412 7580 fax (00) 64 (0)9 412 7579
Land-line Uruguay: (598) 443 21658

Cell Uruguay: (598) 98 654866
Skype In +1 205 378 8645

When Traveling:
Europe (UK) Mobile: +44 (0) 7 530 675 342
Land-line Argentina: (54) 2901 446837
Cell Argentina:  (54) 929 0160 2064

Looking forward…

The system offers significant potential for day-to-day tourism management, and can provide data for the assessment of potential cumulative environmental impact related to tourism activities. Archival data is stored by IAATO. It is also capable of geographic zoning and logging when a vessel enters or departs an area (e.g. sending an alert when a site becomes free for the next operator to land, or notifies a pilot station when a vessel is on its approach.

Field Operations Manual


IAATO has a Field Operations Manual (FOM) that is provided to Operators electronically. Each Operator is sent a USB drive containing the FOM per each vessel/field camp they operate. The complete FOM can also be found online in the Field Operations area of the website, or can be accessed by downloading the FOM Sync App to your desktop. All versions of the FOM are updated prior to  and during the season with relevant information and changes.

The FOM contains all the key standard operating procedures, environmental guidelines and relevant site-specific data that field operators need to follow. In addition the FOM includes all the seasonal information such as the pre-season schedules, contact information for vessels or in the case of emergencies, research station and vessel contact information as provided by COMNAP. The intention of the FOM is to ensure that all operators and those in the field have the relevant information readily available in a standardized format.

Online Field Staff Assessment


IAATO provides an online assessment for field staff to test their working knowledge of the contents of the FOM. The intent behind this service is to provide a free-to-the-user training mechanism for new field staff to test their knowledge of matters relevant to Antarctic guiding. The online assessment also serve as a mechanism for established field staff to refresh their knowledge and ensure they are familiar with new information prior to the season commencing.

Currently the online assessment offers test modules for:

  • Antarctic Peninsula (for Expedition Leaders and Assistant Expedition Leaders)
  • Peninsula & South Georgia (for Expedition Leaders and Assistant Expedition Leaders)
  • Peninsula & South Georgia (for Expedition Guides)
  • Antarctic Peninsula (for Expedition Guides)
  • Ross Sea (for ELs, AELs & Staff)
  • Cruise Only (for Expedition Leaders & Staff)

Other Assessments:

  • Vessel Officers and Crew
  • Home Office Staff
  • IAATO Observers
  • Staff Without IAATO Employer

The intent is to expand the assessment to more geographic areas and distinct operations (e.g., land-based) over time.

How do Field Staff Access the Online Assessment?

The Online Assessment is accessed through the Field Staff Online Assessments page in the Field Operations area of the website. This area also hosts a copy of the FOM, so those taking part in the assessment also have access to the FOM at the time of taking the assessment.

In order to register to gain access to the IAATO website and FOM, field staff must be registered by their Operator through the Company Management section of the IAATO Database.

For any questions regarding registering staff on the IAATO website, please email Erin Delaney.

On the Online Assessment platform, Field Staff will need to create their own account. Please make sure they are aware of which of the above list of assessments they need to register for. For any questions regarding the Online Assessment, please email IAATO Survey Test.

What Happens to the Results?

The results of an assessment go to the participant with a copy being held by IAATO. An instant Certificate of Achievement is available for download to those who pass one of the assessments. The online assessment certificate aims to provide a confirmation of your training and experience.

What is the Operator’s Obligation?

Currently there is no IAATO obligation for an operator’s field staff to take part in the test. However, operators are encouraged to promote the online assessment to their field staff, and an increasing number of operators are making it mandatory. As always, feedback is encouraged.