Tourism in the Arctic is a fast-growing branch within the cruise industry. However, this also increases the potential risk of accidents and incidents as not all ships are equally suited for visits to the Arctic. Now, Cruise industry, authorities and researchers will join forces to enhance Arctic SAR through the new ARCSAR network. Having secured €3.5 million in EU funding, the ARCSAR project will run for five years and include a live exercise on a cruise vessel.

The AECO is an association formed by many Arctic cruise industry stakeholders. The goals are to promote a safe and environmental friendly tourism in the Arctic Polar Region. AECO ships are well-equipped and able to assist search and rescue operations in many ways. Credit: Michael Wenger
The AECO is an association formed by many Arctic cruise industry stakeholders. The goals are to promote a safe and environmental friendly tourism in the Arctic Polar Region. AECO ships are well-equipped and able to assist search and rescue operations in many ways. Credit: Michael Wenger

The Association of Arctic Expedition Cruise Operators (AECO) is one of 21 international partners that will work across sectors to strengthen cooperation and innovation in security and emergency response in the Arctic and the North Atlantic. The ARCSAR network is led by the Joint Rescue Coordination Center North-Norway, and search and rescue (SAR) will be an important focus area for the project. AECO, which represents the majority of expedition cruise operators that sail in Arctic waters, will work closely with authorities, SAR responders and researchers to determine how Arctic SAR preparedness and response can be strengthened and developed. The expedition cruise industry welcomes the opportunity to contribute to safe Arctic navigation through dialogue and innovation. “In a time of increased activity in the Arctic, the ARCSAR project is an important and timely initiative. The expedition cruise industry is already working closely with Arctic SAR entities, and this network will make it possible to take full advantage of the knowledge, experience and best practices we are identifying,” says Frigg Jørgensen, Executive director of AECO.

The expedition cruise industry and SAR responders will carry out a live exercise on board a passenger vessel sailing in Arctic waters. Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst, via Wikimedia Commons
The expedition cruise industry and SAR responders will carry out a live exercise on board a passenger vessel sailing in Arctic waters. Photo: U.S. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Grant DeVuyst, via Wikimedia Commons

Jørgensen underlines that passenger vessels represent an important asset in Arctic marine preparedness. “During search and rescue operations in remote parts of the Arctic, expedition cruise ships can be the first to arrive on site. Cruise ships carry food, water, medical supplies, doctors, numerous high speed small vessels and other resources that are useful in SAR operations. Previous tabletop exercises organized by AECO and SAR entities have shown that there is a potential for making better use of these resources. ARCSAR’s planned live exercise will be a valuable opportunity to continue to learn and improve cooperation,” says Jørgensen. Swedish cruise operator and AECO member PolarQuest is also part of the ARCSAR network and will most likely supply the vessel which will be used during the live exercise. The time and location of the exercise is yet to be determined. ARCSAR was recently granted €3.5 million in EU funding, and will involve partners from Finland, Sweden, Norway, Iceland, Faroe Islands, the U.S., Canada, Russia, Italy, Germany, UK, Ireland and New Zealand.

The Arctic region is a vast and dangerous place for non-ice-class vessels. AECO sets standards and collaborates with Arctic governments and authorities to increase safety for both man and nature. Credit: Michael Wenger
The Arctic region is a vast and dangerous place for non-ice-class vessels. AECO sets standards and collaborates with Arctic governments and authorities to increase safety for both man and nature. Credit: Michael Wenger

Source: Edda Falk, AECO