My grandfather has been a yachtsman for more than half a century, he is now retired and now has everything he needs to fulfill his dream: sailing to Antarctica.

But he is a citizen of Moldova, which does not participate in the Antarctic Treaty System and never has. The flag country of the yacht is also Moldova. As such, Moldovan authorities do not require to get any permit to visit Antarctica on a yacht. Also, during the voyage there would be no citizens of any party to the Antarctic Treaty on the yacht. Only my grandfather and his friends, who are also citizens of Moldova.

The plan is to visit Marie Byrd Land on my yacht and the question is: Is any permit needed or some sort of visa to Antarctica? If yes, where can it be obtained and why would a non-AT country citizen need one?

Because, first, our government doesn't require anything for such a trip and regards Antarctica as a neutral zone. Moldova never participated in the Antarctic Treaty. Second, the official site of the Secreteriat of the Antarctic Treaty only mentions that AT-country citizens must get a permit. What about our situation? We are not planning to visit any antarctic research base or the like…

Addition #1. No, he didn't read Yacht World. Addition #2. Short-time disembarkation in MBL coast is planned, but mainly not leaving the yacht. Direct word: "Few hours land visits by tender few times, nothing more. For photography and happy smiles." Hope, you was rightfully understood by me, Gayot Fow.

  • Sorry, I'm not into yachting at all. But I will ask my grandfather. I assume, if there is no Russian or Romanian (languages, which spoken in Moldova) language version of the magazine, the answer is no - he just can't read in English.
    – Max
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 6:22
  • @GayotFow The last part is definitely not true, a permit from one signatory is enough, which makes me doubt the rest. The whole thing is not intended as a kind of special immigration regime.
    – Relaxed
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 7:01
  • 1
    Why Marie Byrd Land in particular? The vast majority of private cruises go to the Peninsula, which is substantially more accessible - a lot less sea ice even in summer. Permits might be the least of his worries... Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 12:26
  • 7
    Now that's what I call a 'travel question'.
    – A E
    Commented Oct 19, 2015 at 13:07
  • 3
    @Max did your grandfather do it?
    – Jan Nash
    Commented Mar 1, 2017 at 19:58

2 Answers 2


Official response from Amanda Lynnes, Communications & Operations Assistant of the IAATO — International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators:

Dear Maxim,

Thank you very much indeed for contacting IAATO. No need to apologise for your English - it is very good!

Because Moldova is not an Antarctic Treaty Party, you are a citizen of Moldova and your yacht is flagged to the country too, it is possible for you to travel to Antarctica unauthorised (without a permit). This is not recommended by the wider Antarctic community and the process for obtaining a permit is a good way to prepare for your voyage. What port were you intending to stop at before departing for Antarctica and when were you hoping to leave? It is possible that you can obtain a permit from the last country you visit before you leave for the continent, e.g., Chile, Argentina, New Zealand etc.

With best wishes, Amanda

Official response from José Luis Agraz, Information Officer of the ATS — Antarctic Treaty Secretariat:

Dear Maxim,

Thank you for contacting us.

As is raised in your message, if your country of nationality Moldova does not require its citizens any kind of permission to travel to Antarctica, you do not need to perform any additional management.

The Antarctic Treaty obligations are only applicable to nationals of any of the 53 contracting and accessing Parties.

I wish you success in your trip to Antarctica.

José Luis Agraz

  • 4
    You know... that will be an adventure in the most undeniable sense. Good luck, prepare proper, take care and if you really did it....please tell your story. Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 10:04
  • 2
    May I ask a question ? How big is the yacht and how many people are traveling ? Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 10:14
  • 2
    It is pretty much rebuilt version of old Russian refrigerating-storing and trawling vessel, MPC-225 (project 1322P). My grandfather with his friends was rebuilding the ship for approximately 10 or so years. There was VERY much work done and many extreme modernizations finished. For example, refrigerated hold was redone into fuel tank enlarging fuel capacity x6 times, making the today-yacht of transpacific oceangoing ability.
    – Max
    Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 10:31
  • 7
    I really want to draw your attention to the "not recommended by the wider Antarctic community" phrase, which might be more effectively translated as: this is very, very dangerous if you are not well prepared. Paperwork is mainly a way to make sure you do it safely rather than to prevent people going. I don't want to sound too negative, but I just want to make sure you get this! Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 19:22
  • 4
    @Max I must say your boat is at least a pleasant surprise, a 23m (75 ft) motor trawler is exactly the kind of ship you need for such waters. I feared that you going in with a nutshell. Blimey, it really could work out. I keep my fingers crossed for you all. Commented Oct 20, 2015 at 20:03

I am not sure I understand whether your grandfather is supposed to get a permit, on what basis and what the practical consequences could be but he can in any case get a permit from the country of departure/last port of call before reaching Antarctica. So being a Moldovan citizen on a Moldovan vessel does not prevent you from applying for a permit.

I reckon your grandfather would probably prefer to spare himself the trouble because that's quite a lot of paperwork to do, especially in a foreign language, but if he needs a permit or decides to get one out of an abundance of caution, that's always a possibility. Depending on his plans, he could thus apply for a permit from Australia, Chile or Argentina.

I will try to add more details and sources for all that later but as an example, consider this guidance from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office:

Any person on a British expedition to Antarctica […] will need to apply for a permit to the Polar Regions Department of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office (FCO).

A British expedition is one organised in the UK, or one where the last place of departure for Antarctica is the UK, a British overseas territory, or a Crown Dependency.


You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .