Shipping traffic in Norwegian coastal waters and around Svalbard has increased significantly in recent years. Cruise ships, in particular, gather in the fjords and harbours to show guests a seemingly untouched nature. But this poses many problems, especially in matters of safety and the environment. This became very clear with the Viking Sky incident last year. Therefore, the Norwegian Council of State and King Harald V have set up a new committee to address the issue. Part of the committee also is AECO Executive Director Frigg Jørgensen and the Governor of Svalbard, Kjerstin Askholt. Part of the committee also is AECO Executive Director Frigg Jørgensen and the Governor of Svalbard, Kjerstin Askholt.
The newly formed committee is expected to provide advice and propose measures to render the booming cruise tourism in Norwegian waters safer and more responsible by the end of next year. In addition to Jorgensen and Askholt, eight other members from the various interest groups were appointed to the committee. Among them is Karin Strand from Hurtigruten, which together with Frigg Jorgensen cover expedition tourism. Other members come from the areas of SAR (search and rescue), technology, risk analysis and business. The committee is chaired by Governor Kjerstin Askholt. Among them is Karin Strand from Hurtigruten, which together with Frigg Jorgensen cover expedition tourism.
The background to the formation of the committee lies in the increasing numbers of cruise ships in Norwegian waters, including Svalbard. In the northern regions and in the Arctic in particular, however, increased safety concerns have arisen as a result of the increasing numbers. The Governor of Svalbard Kjerstin Askholt and AECO Managing Director Frigg Jørgensen have been working for some time on this issue. While AECO has been increasingly seeking cooperation with the various SAR representatives for several years and developing scenarios and models to improve the measures, the management of Svalbard has taken decisions to reduce the size of ships in its waters. Many of the ships that enter the fjords of Norway and the icy waters of Svalbard carry hundreds to thousands of passengers on board and are powered by heavy fuel oil. This makes these ships particularly dangerous to the environment in the event of an incident. The Governor of Svalbard Kjerstin Askholt and AECO Managing Director Frigg Jørgensen have been working for some time on this issue.
The dangers of incidents involving ships near the coast may have been made particularly clear last year when the cruise ship Viking Sky was hit by a storm on the Norwegian coast. The ship drifted dangerously close to shallow coastal waters and about a third of the 1,373 passengers had to be disembarked in a very complex and dangerous rescue mission. A spill through leakage of the ship could also have led to a huge environmental disaster. For the Arctic region of Svalbard, such incidents would be even more dangerous, as rescue missions would be even more complex and, above all, longer due to the remote location of the archipelago.
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