Traditional small and medium-sized expedition ships saw a 9.4% increase in annual passengers carried to the Antarctic as new fuel regulations barred large cruise ships from the region.
Quark Expeditions exceeded industry figures with 10% growth compared to the previous year.
Additionally, the company carried 21% of all Antarctic passengers in the market segment of ‘Landed – Small Ship’.
The International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators tourism statistics for the 2011-12 season, which concluded in early April, saw overall numbers drop by 22% to 26,519.
The total represents the fourth consecutive year in which Antarctic tourism has declined.
The drop was primarily seen in larger vessels carrying more than 500 passengers that do not disembark passengers ashore while in Antarctic waters.
IAATO said: “The 4,872 passengers in this category represented about a third of the 14,373 carried during the previous season, and demonstrated the impact of the International Maritime Organization ban on the use and carriage of heavy fuel oil in Antarctic waters, which went into effect August 1, 2011, prior to the season.
“Traditional small and medium-size expedition ships and yachts – all carrying 500 or fewer passengers and conducting landings – accounted for 20,271, an increase of 9.4% over the previous season. “
Quark Expeditions president Hans Lagerweij said: “We just completed an outstanding Antarctic season. Our smaller, more efficient vessels continued to provide Polar explorers with access to Antarctica while also helping to preserve the continent’s indigenous wildlife and pristine rugged beauty.”
Quark aims to operate the first carbon neutral voyages in Polar travel history on the vessel Ocean Diamond in the 2012-2013 season.
The company’s newest addition will depart on November 3 on a Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctica itinerary.
The CarbonNeutral Company is providing the carbon offsets for the ship.
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