MITROPOULOS PRAISES SUCCESSFUL ANTARCTIC RESCUE
IMO Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos said yesterday that the successful rescue of all passengers and crew on board the cruise ship Explorer off the coast of Antarctica, served to highlight the work of the Organization in regulating several key aspects of maritime safety relevant to the accident.
More than 150 people were rescued from the Explorer after she hit an iceberg and eventually sank in waters off Antarctica.
Mr Mitropoulos told delegates at the 25th IMO Assembly that, while the loss of the ship was a matter of regret, the rescue of all on board was a cause for rejoicing. "The fact that there was no loss of life," he said, "must be credited to a well-executed and orderly evacuation operation and an equally well co-ordinated rescue operation involving search and rescue (SAR) services, both at sea and ashore, from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Norway, the United Kingdom and the United States - a truly international effort deserving an expression of due tribute."
He went on to say that "the good work of this Organization in regulating vital safety aspects, such as survival craft and arrangements, evacuation procedures and search and rescue operations should, in cases like the Explorer's, be acknowledged and appreciated."
Mr Mitropoulos said that IMO was eager and ready to receive the report of the investigation into the Explorer casualty and see what lessons may be learnt to enhance the safety of ships and operations in ice-covered waters prior to considering any new measures that may be required in the circumstances. He requested the ship's flag state, Liberia, to move fast to conduct the investigation and submit its report to IMO as soon as possible. The fact that cruise ships, in increasing numbers, choose remote and sensational areas for their operations, he added, made the need for expeditious action all the more important.
Later this week the Assembly will consider, for adoption, a draft resolution on Guidelines on voyage planning for passenger ships operating in remote areas, a document that had already been drawn up in response to the growing popularity of cruise ships sailing to such new destinations, some of which are at considerable distances from SAR facilities. This new IMO initiative comes in the aftermath of the adoption, by the Organization's Maritime Safety and Marine Environment Protection Committees, in December 2002, of Guidelines for ships operating in Arctic ice-covered waters.