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MNZ welcomes Antarctic Treaty Meeting of Experts

DATE 9 DECEMBER 2009

MNZ welcomes Antarctic Treaty Meeting of Experts


Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) is taking a key role at the Antarctic Treaty Meeting of Experts being held in Wellington from today.

Around 80 delegates will be attending the meeting which will examine issues surrounding ship-borne tourism in the Antarctic Treaty Area. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade is hosting the meeting, from 9 to 11 December.

MNZ Director Catherine Taylor will open the meeting, and says it is encouraging to see so many Antarctic and maritime experts come to Wellington to discuss this vital issue.

The meeting programme will look at the environmental impacts of tourism shipping in the region and ways to mitigate those impacts. It will also look at contingency plans for search and rescue and oil spill response.

“As a country that borders the Southern Ocean with responsibility for a large search and rescue region in the Antarctic, New Zealand is acutely aware of the risks and challenges that we would face trying to assist a shipping casualty in the Southern Ocean,” Ms Taylor says.

“MNZ takes a strong interest in the Antarctic and is committed to working with our international partners to ensure the best environmental protection possible is in place.

“The Antarctic also poses many logistical issues for search and rescue or oil spill response personnel, which is why we are working together to ensure we have the most practical contingency plans in place for emergencies in the region.”

Ms Taylor says MNZ is strongly supportive of improving the links between the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting and the International Maritime Organization (IMO) in order to ensure that protective measures are applied to all shipping in the region.

It is only through the IMO that regulation can be extended to cover all vessels, not just those flagged to Treaty Party nations.

These links were assisting in the development of initiatives such as the Mandatory Polar Code – a proposal currently before the IMO which will see improved standards established for ships operating in ice-covered waters.

Also before the IMO was a proposed ban on heavy grades of fuel oil for ships visiting the Antarctic, which would greatly reduce the risks associated with an oil spill in the region.

“New Zealand is a gateway to the Antarctic and we are committed to reducing the risks posed by tourist vessel traffic to the region. We are pleased to be part of this important meeting and look forward to seeing some real progress being made in the ongoing protection of the region.”

ends


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