With a growing expedition cruise fleet, the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO) and its membership base are moving quickly to implement a new state-of-the-art vessel scheduling system for landing sites in Antarctica.
IAATO has employed a ship scheduling process for nearly 20 years, allowing operators to coordinate landing site visits to avoid congestion.
That system, however, is said to be nearing its limits with more ships and guests in Antarctica than ever before.
The current system is also said to be a race between operators to file their itineraries, as all members race against the clock once the books open to file their expedition plans.
As inevitable conflicts arise, expedition operators are reasonable when it comes to exchanging dates and landing sites, according to multiple cruise lines who spoke to Cruise Industry News.
“We are in the process of redeveloping our database and the ship scheduler to ensure they are as robust as possible going forward,” said Lisa Kelley, head of operations. “As part of this, several different ways of utilizing the scheduler have been discussed that aim to reduce potential pressure at landing sites, including a points-based system. Over the coming year our priority will be to launch the new database and test different ways of optimizing the ship scheduler and landing site utilization.”
While various ideas are being debated, most members polled by Cruise Industry News are in favor of the points system, which would give ships a certain number of points for the entire season. Each landing site would then “cost” points, with the popular sites carrying a larger charge.
“The scheduler is based on pre-set ‘rules’ in the database that set limits on the number of passengers ashore, no more than one vessel landing at a site at any one time; number of ships that can visit a site in a day; and time of day when a site can be visited,” said Kelley.
“Also important is providing incentives for operators to offer Antarctic experiences that reduce pressure on traditional landing sites.”