Arctic cruise market ‘will not be affected’ by glacier accident – 16 Aug 2007

Arctic cruise operators believe the injuries to 17 UK tourists that occurred when pieces of a glacier broke off near their ship last week will do nothing to dent market growth of 15% this year.

Investigations continue into whether the Russian-crewed Alexey Maryshev sailed too close to the Horn Glacier off the coast of Spitsbergen.

Operator Discover the World, which had chartered the ship from Dutch operator Oceanwide Expeditions, said the captain of Alexey Maryshev would not serve on any future sailings with its customers on board.

About 46,000 UK holidaymakers cruised to the Arctic, Greenland or Iceland last year, and First Choice Expedition Cruising managing director Ian McIlrath identified the region as a destination growing in popularity.

He said: “Polar cruising is growing in double digits – we expect it to increase 10%-15% a year.”

McIlrath conceded there will always be safety issues, but said incidents such as that involving the Alexey Maryshev are rare.

“We operate tight safety procedures and are very surprised by what has happened,” he said.

First Choice operates cruises to the region with Peregrine Shipping and Clipper Cruise Lines.

Iain Cottam, managing director of Norwegian cruise specialist Hurtigruten, agreed: “There is an element of danger in sailing in this area so we have to be responsible in all aspects.

“The demand is increasing. We can’t stop cruising in this area so we have to do it in a responsible fashion.”

Both operators said they had received calls from customers concerned about the incident, but had seen no impact on business.

Passenger Shipping Association director Bill Gibbons said: “The cruise industry is committed to providing a secure environment for passengers and crew, irrelevant of destination.”

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