Tour operators are always on the lookout for new and exotic tourist destinations and the Arctic is the newest addition to their itinerary. Till now attention was focused on the ills of Global warming but the cloud has a silver lining because it has reduced the extent of sea ice in the Arctic. As a result, more ships are coming to the region and arctic tourism is emerging. A 1,000-passenger luxury liner is preparing to set sail in August on a month-long Arctic cruise. It will follow the Northwest Passage and will have an escort of a British supply ship.

Broad plan of Arctic tourism

According to the New York Times, the luxury liner will undertake the journey in the company of a British liner that is usually used to ferry supplies to the scientific bases located in Antarctica. It would extend assistance along the route and will be available on hand to tackle issues related to specific problems like getting stuck in ice. It is equipped to maneuver through ice and carry emergency water and rations for the liner’s passengers and crew members apart from equipment to attend to oil spills. It will also have helicopters. Obviously, everything appears to have been taken care of at the planning stage of Arctic tourism.

As the ice melts due to global warming, the Arctic will open up to maritime traffic and, in the opinion of some scientists, the region could become totally free of ice by the summers of the 2030s or 2040s.

However, right now, the volume of shipping in the Arctic does not justify the presence of additional ice-breakers or naval cutters in the region, or a helicopter base that could aid ships in distress. Hence, escort ships would be required.

The future scenario

Global warming could bring to the forefront the concept of Arctic tourism and pioneers will reap rich dividends because of the novelty that can, possibly, be compared to travel in space where help will not be within easy reach.

Nations in close proximity of the Arctic and sharing parts of it like the United States have agreed to help out each other in case of a disaster. However, the emergency infrastructure available right now is inadequate and must be augmented if such tourism is to become a viable proposition.

A ship that is not properly equipped could face problems requiring extensive search-and-rescue operation in the Arctic and absence of icebreakers or cutters in the region could pose problems.

It would also be difficult to arrange long-range airlifts by helicopters. Therefore, any emergency operation would have to depend on other commercial ships present in the area and a rescue would be a time-consuming affair.