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By No owner — last modified Jan 31, 2013 01:56 PM

 Antarctica - Formalities

Clearance

All expeditions to Antarctica south of 60°S must obtain permission from the national Antarctic operator or the relevant government department (See  Documents section below). Until recently yachts arriving without permission were tolerated, but this is no longer the case.

The Antarctic guidelines do not apply north of 60°S. However, those territories which are north of 60°S in the Southern Ocean are under the jurisdiction of their respective national governments and are dealt with on their specific Noonsite pages. The relevant authority should be contacted before visiting any Southern Ocean Island to ascertain the latest regulations and restrictions.

Any vessel intending to visit Antarctica must obtain written permission from its national authority responsible for the implementation of the Antarctic Treaty and Protocol.

British vessels are not supposed to sail into Antarctic waters without permission from the relevant department in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. See the FCO website for more information. Penalties are very severe if this ruling is not observed.

The US and French authorities take a more lenient view. The procedure for obtaining permission (in some cases known as "advance notice" or "prior notification") varies according to different countries but should be commenced at least 6 months before the intended visit.

Advance Notification form can be obtained from IAATO website.

Although various countries claim sovereignty over parts of the Antarctic territory, the only one relevant for cruising boats is Chile, which controls the area south of the Beagle Channel, including Cape Horn, and also claims much of the Antarctic Peninsula. As these are the areas where the majority of cruising boats would go, it is essential to complete the necessary formalities in Puerto Williams before proceeding south. This is a good insurance as the most likely source of help, should there be an emergency, is the Chilean Navy.

The Chilean authorities do not impose any restrictions to a vessel intending to visit the Antarctic Peninsula; certain formalities must be completed in Puerto Williams, both before going and on one's return. A zarpe will be issued for sailing in Chilean Antarctic waters and one must report to any Chilean bases in the Antarctic (failure to do so may result in a fine). The Chilean base Marsh, on King George Island, South Shetlands, has a regular air link to Chile.

If wishing to visit a base, the base commander should be contacted first by VHF (Channels 12 or 16) to request permission.

Once in Antarctica there are no formalities to be completed and yachts are free to cruise, subject to various restrictions. Most of these are self-imposed and self-controlled. The success of them being observed depends entirely on the captain and crew of each individual yacht, who should do everything in their power to protect the fragile environment.

A Post-Visit Report must be submitted to whoever issued your permit within 3 months of your visit. These can be downloaded from the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat or IAATO websites.

Last updated April 2016.

Government of the British Antarctic Territory Polar Regions Department
Overseas Territories Directorate , Foreign & Commonwealth Office , London SW1A 2AH
Tel:+44 (0)20 7008 1639
Opening hours: 09:00-17:00(Mon-Fri) local time

Customs

Preserving this pristine environment is essential.

See IAATO website for information on decontaminating clothing and equipment.

Last updated April 2016.

Documents

Yachts intending to visit Antarctica must be familiar with the annexes to the Protocol on Environmental Protection as well as the Antarctic Treaty Recommendations XVIII-I (1994), Guidance for Visitors to the Antarctic and Guidance for those Organising and Conducting Tourism and Non-governmental Activities in the Antarctic. Available from the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat website www.ats.aq

The Tourism Guidelines adopted in 1994 were supplemented in 2004 with Guidelines on contingency planning, insurance and other matters. The full text of the guidelines can be read on the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat website (follow the links Topics – Other). In summary, the 2004 guidelines state that those organising or conducting tourist or other non-governmental activities in the Antarctic Treaty Area should have in place before the visit “appropriate contingency plans and sufficient arrangements for health and safety, search and rescue (SAR), and medical care and evacuation.” Also available from the Antarctic Treaty Secretariat website are specific guidelines for sites most visited by tourists. Although intended more for larger numbers of visitors (12 or more) smaller groups should also abide by these guidelines. More sites will be added in future. Site-specific guidelines have been developed for the Antarctic Peninsula and the South Shetlands.

Information is also available from IAATO, International Association of Antarctic Tour Operators

Any U.K. yachts planning to visit Antartica can apply to the U.K. Foreign Office. Yachts with at least one British national on board are also able to apply. This can also be done even if the yacht is not U.K. flagged. See www.gov.uk/visits-to-antarctica-how-to-apply-for-a-permit for more information as well as useful data about sailing in Antartica. The forms are now tailored to expeditions by smaller yachts.
(Note: this information moved to a new website address in May 2013 and many links from elsewhere are out of date.)

Last updated April 2016.

Restrictions

The following rules must be observed in order to comply with the Antarctic Treaty conservation provisions. The signatories to the Antarctic Protocol take a tough view on the need to implement its various provisions. In the case of the UK, the Antarctic Act 1994 provides for any offences to be punishable by a prison sentence or fine, or both.

  • No killing or capturing of any wildlife (seals and birds) nor collection of eggs.
  • Minimal interference with plants, animals and soil. Visitors should keep their distance from wildlife, especially when breeding, and not touch or disturb them. Nothing should be removed, including plants and rocks, and historical evidence of human activity left undisturbed.
  • There are some 50 Protected Areas in Antarctica, so designated because of the need to restrict human disturbance. They can only be visited with a permit issued under the authority of an Antarctic Treaty participating government. Applications should be made to one of the Antarctic national committees or institutes. The list of areas is subject to change and an up-to-date list should be consulted prior to one's visit.
  • There are also unofficial restricted areas near the scientific bases and on the subantarctic islands; information on these should be requested from the bases. http://cep.ats.aq/cep/apa/index.html >
  • No introduction of non-indigenous flora or fauna, diseases, parasites. No pets are allowed into the Treaty area. All garbage must be returned to the yacht; biodegradable waste can be disposed of at sea as far off the coast as possible - larger vessels (more than 12 crew) must go 12 miles offshore.
  • Entry into protected areas requires separate applications for permits and these would only be issued if there was an overriding benefit to scientific research.
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