Regulations for activities in Antarctica

All activities in and visits to Antarctica must be done in accordance with the regulations set forth in the regulations relating to safety and the protection of the environment in Antarctica. Such activities must also be carried out in accordance with the Antarctic Treaty (1959), an annex – the Protocol on Environmental Protection (1991), and other pertinent regulations. Here we summarise the most important provisions. Breach of the regulations may be punished with fines, imprisonment for up to one year, or both.

Requirement for notification of planned activities

The regulations apply to all Norwegian activity in Antartctica including private expeditions, research projects and cruise operators. The notification must be sent to the Norwegian Polar Institute as early as possible, and no later than one year ahead of the visit.

No notification is required if you intend to participate in

  • an expedition which is organised from another country with corresponding regulations, and which has been granted the permissions required by that country.
  • an organised cruise where the cruise operator sends notification on behalf of the participants.

It is your own responsibility to check that the activity has been granted the necessary permits, and that you are covered by them.

Requirement specifically concerned with research

A Norwegian scientist participating in a research project organised in another country and dealt with in accordance with corresponding regulations in that country is not necessarily obliged to notify Norwegian authorities about the activity. The scientist must ascertain that every aspect of the fieldwork he or she will undertake is covered by the environmental regulations for Antarctica applied in the other country. If parts of this activity are not covered by these, he or she is required to submit notification of these.

In the case of research cooperation, the parties must determine who is regarded as being in charge of the fieldwork and that person must notify the Polar Institute accordingly.

The Norwegian Polar Institute wishes to know about all Norwegian research in Antarctica and therefore requests scientists at Norwegian research institutions to inform us about the fieldwork they will carry out in Antarctica if that has been dealt with under the terms of corresponding regulations in another country.

Requirement for what the notification must include

All notifications – including research activity and private activity – must include

  • information about who is responsible for the activity, when and where it will it take place, its objectives, etc.
  • an assessment of possible environmental impact of the activity
  • a plan for how to limit possible negative impact
  • information about contingency plans and search-and-rescue insurance
  • information about how the requirement for insurance or other guarantees that cover costs incurred in connection with searches, rescue operations and medical evacuation will be fulfilled

Certain additional requirements come into effect in the case of larger-scale activities involving vessels, vehicles, transport or storage of fuel and so on, or which may lead to sudden pollution in other ways. For such activities, the notification must also contain

  • a description of essential equipment and expertise, and contingency plans to be able to deal with environmental emergency in the Antarctic
  • information about how you will comply with the requirement for insurance or other guarantees to cover the financial responsibility which you may be imposed if the activity has led to environmental emergency

Format of the notification

Anyone planning activities in or visits to Antarctica is advised to contact the Polar Institute for further guidance concerning the notification requirements.

The Norwegian Polar Institute provides forms that can be used to submit notifications. If the forms are not suitable for proper description of the expedition, they can nevertheless serve as a guide for what the notification should contain. (Note that all the forms below are in Norwegian.)

Form for notification of activity in Antarctica (Norwegian):ODT PDF

Activities that do not fit these forms must formulate appropriate notification and provide a consequence analysis. We recommend that the individuals in charge of such activities contact the Norwegian Polar Institute in advance for further guidance.

Requirement for environmental impact assessment

All notifications must include a preliminary assessment of the consequences for the environment (i.e., a preliminary impact assessment). This is to ensure that all activities are planned and carried out so as to have as little impact as possible on the Antarctic environment.

  • For small-scale activities (such as skiing, climbing and sailing), filling in the notification form is usually sufficient to meet the requirement for a preliminary impact assessment.
  • Activities on a larger scale require a more comprehensive preliminary impact assessment. The Norwegian Polar Institute can assist in such cases.
  • Activities that might potentially have more than a negligible and brief impact on the environment require a thorough evaluation (a full impact assessment).

Contact the Polar Institute for further information.

Requirement for contingency plans and insurance

If you are planning activities in or a visit to Antarctica, you must be able to document adequate contingency plans and arrangements to cover:

  • Health and safety. The plans should be based on risk analyses of possible scenarios.
  • Search and rescue (SAR), including evacuation from Antarctica. The SAR plan must be described in detail in the notification.
  • Medical treatment and evacuation. The preparations must include plans for evacuation from Antarctica, which should be formulated on the basis of risk analyses of possible scenarios.

If a plan requires support from others in any way, there must be signed agreements to that effect.

In the case of activities at sea, those responsible must be aware that it is not sufficient to count on other vessels being present in the vicinity to aid in search and rescue. Relevant initiatives may be to notify the rescue coordination centre for the area you are travelling in and supply regular position updates to the relevant rescue coordination centre or have agreements with other vessels you know are in the same area. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) has drawn up guidelines for contingency plans for passangers ships operating remote from official search and rescue facilities.


Those in charge of the activity must ensure adequate insurance coverage, or provide a guarantee for reimbursement of all costs incurred by others in conjunction with rescue missions and medical evacuation related to the activity. The Norwegian Polar Institute determines the insurance sum on the basis of information and details about each specific activity

All vessels must adhere to International Maritime Organization (IMO) guidelines for contingency plans for passengers ships operating remote from official search and rescue facilities.

In the case of activities at sea, agreements and regulations which apply at sea (§ 135 of the Norwegian Maritime Code and the Convention on Maritime Search and Rescue) state that all vessels are obliged to render necessary assistance to those in distress or threatened by danger at sea. It is therefore not usual to take out search and rescue insurance cover for maritime activity.

In such cases, the insurance required for search, rescue and medical evacuation should cover the cost of search and rescue undertaken in connection with sojourn and activities on land, and any expenses others incur in connection with medical evacuation that may be called for during sailing and land-based activity.

Requirement specifically concerned with research

Scientists who perform activity as part of their employment at a Norwegian government research institution do not normally need to obtain their own insurance or guarantee. In most cases, they are covered by the government’s self-insurance scheme. It is then sufficient to present a declaration from the institution stating that any responsibility in connection with the fieldwork is covered by the government’s self-insurance scheme.

Scientists performing activity not covered by the government’s self-insurance scheme must ensure that they have insurance cover or a guarantee which covers this responsibility up to the amount stipulated by the Norwegian Polar Institute when it deals with the notification.

The Norwegian Polar Institute has drawn up a guide for insurance cover for search, rescue and medical evacuation. We advise everyone to use this when the activity is being planned.

The insurance must be confirmed and documented before the activity is undertaken.

Experience and equipment

Those planning activities in or visits to Antarctica must be able to document the following, preferably as part of their notification:

  • The participants must have sufficient experience of operations in polar areas (or corresponding knowhow). This experience must be relevant to the activity being planned and can for example include
    • courses on survival in cold/remote regions
    • flying
    • sailing
    • operating other types of vehicles over corresponding distances
  • All equipment, including clothing, communication gear, navigation equipment, first aid kits, and logistics equipment must be in prime condition. The expedition must have an adequate supply of spare parts. The equipment must also function efficiently under Antarctic conditions.
  • All participants must know how to use the equipment.
  • All participants must be in sufficiently good medical, physical and psychological condition to carry out the activity in Antarctica.
  • At least one of the participants must be capable of providing advanced first aid. As long as the activity is ongoing, adequate first aid supplies must be available.

For maritime activity

Parties to the Antarctic Treaty have jointly drawn up a guidelines for those planning expeditions with leisure craft.

The IMO Polar Code will be relevant for some vessels.

Requirement for contingency plans and insurance to deal with environmental emergency

If the planned activity is of such a scale or such a nature that it may have a major, harmful effect on the environment in the Antarctic (sudden pollution) should a mishap occur, you must have the equipment, expertise and contingency plans required to deal with it. In addition, you must have insurance to cover the costs incurred in tackling sudden pollution.

The contingency plans must be attached to the notification and must include, for example:

  • procedures for warning of environmental emergency
  • procedures to assess the scale of environmental emergency and plans for countermeasures
  • knowledge about available resources and how these can be mobilised
  • procedures for documentation and training

In many cases, the person responsible for the activity, for instance the cruise operator, already has contingency plans.  If so, it is sufficient to present the existing plans and documentation.

The person responsible for the activity must have insurance cover or be able to present an alternative form of guarantee for his liability for costs associated with damages resulting from environmental emergency if sufficient countermeasures have not been taken.

Chapter 7 of the Regulations regulates responsibility in the event of environmental emergency and demands effectice response action if an environmental emergency occurs as a result of the activity. Should countermeasures not be put in place, you could be judged financially responsible.

The insurance cover or indemnity has a ceiling which is laid down in § 31 of the Regulations and which varies according to the category the activity belongs to.

Many operators already have liability insurance attached to their activity which satisfies this requirement for insurance. This particularly applies to ship-based operators. In such cases, it is sufficient to present documentation of existing insurance arrangements.

We advise you to contact the Norwegian Polar Institute for further guidance if the activity is of such a nature that it may result in sudden pollution. 

Protected areas and guidelines for specific places

Those travelling to Antarctica are obliged to acquaint themselves with specially protected areas, cultural heritage sites and historic sites, and to comply with rules applying to the area concerned.

Those who wish to enter or engage in activities in the Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPA) must have a permit from the Norwegian Polar Institute. Any conditions for the visit will be set forth in the permit. The permit holder is required to carry a copy of the permit at all times while in the protected area.

Requirement specifically concerned with research

Antarctic Specially Protected Areas (ASPA) are often reserved for research purposes, but scientists wishing to undertake fieldwork in the protected area must, nevertheless, obtain a special permit. An application for such permission must be submitted on Attachment B in the notification form.

If you intend to enter an Antarctic Specially Managed Area (ASMA), you must adhere to the regulations established for that area. These can be found in each area’s management plan which the Norwegian Polar Institute can provide for you.

It is prohibited to damage, remove or destroy Historic Sites and Monuments (HSM) that have been registered according to the Antarctic Treaty.

The parties to the Antarctic Treaty have established a set of guidelines for visitors to a selection of sites in Antarctica. If you are planning to visit one of these sites you must familiarise yourself with the relevant guidelines and follow them.

Current lists of areas and places


The Antarctic Regulations require that everyone transports their waste out of the Antarctic after an activity has ceased. There is a total ban on leaving waste in Antarctica.

The Norwegian Polar Institute may, nevertheless, grant exemption if it concerns very small amounts of waste with limited environmental effect, for example sewage from small skiing expeditions. This requires specific permission.

Waste may be incinerated provided this takes place in specially constructed incinerators without producing environmentally harmful emissions; this must be specially documented. If the waste is to be stored and fetched later, particularly stringent demands apply regarding its storage so that any emission or dispersal into the environment is prevented.

Regulations of 30 May 2012 no. 488 on environmental safety for ships and mobile offshore units apply to waste from leisure craft and vessels.

Protection of flora and fauna

The flora and fauna in Antarctica are very vulnerable and are therefore protected. This means that it is forbidden to collect or in other ways cause harm to plants and animals.

Harmful effects on plants and animals may include

  • helicopters or other aircraft which fly or land in such a way as to disturb concentrations of birds and seals
  • use of vehicles or ships, including hovercrafts and small boats, in such a way as to disturb concentrations of birds and seals
  • use of explosives or weapons in such a way as to disturb birds and seals
  • deliberate disturbance of breeding or moulting birds, or concentrations of birds and seals, as a consequence of people travelling on foot
  • significant damage to concentrations of naturally occurring terrestrial plants due to landing of aircraft, driving of vehicles, trampling, or in other ways
  • all activities which result in a significantly harmful alteration of the habitat of all species or populations of naturally occurring marine mammals, birds, plants or invertebrates

Requirement specifically concerned with research

Permission is granted to collect specimens and take wildlife for research purposes, but an application for special permission must be submitted to the Norwegian Polar Institute (Attachment F in the notification form).

Introduction of alien species

The Regulations forbid the introduction of plants and animals. The ban also includes dogs.

Note that alien species may also be introduced inadvertently, for example in clothing, footwear and other equipment or materials. Equipment that has been used elsewhere must therefore be disinfected before being taken to the Antarctic. Organisms from arctic regions are more likely to establish in the Antarctic, and consequently the risk of unintended introduction of alien species is higher if the equipment has previously been used in the Arctic. More about non-native species and measures to avois unintended introduction:


Any activity with minerals i banned.

Requirement specifically concerned with research

Research is exempt from this ban. The Polar Institute decides what is research in each particular case. Scientists who intend to handle minerals must fill in Attachment G in the notification form. Remember that handling minerals may also affect flora, for instance lichen growing on rock. In that case, permission must be sought for this.

Final report

A condition laid down for undertaking activities in the Antarctic is that a final report is submitted. This requirement is part of the Antarctic Regulations. The report is intended to help the Norwegian Polar Institute to learn of any departures, incidents or experience concerned with the various expeditions. It also assists Norway to fulfil her obligations with respect to the Antarctic Treaty by maintaining an overview of activities undertaken in the Antarctic.

There is a specific form for this purpose.

  • Final report form (Norwegian): ODT PDF