Systemic risk of cruise ship incidents from an Arctic and insurance perspective

Lara Johannsdottir*, David Cook, Gisele M. Arruda

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Easier accessibility and demand for so-called last chance tourism has contributed to rapid growth in Arctic cruise ship tourism. Arctic cruising brings many benefits to remote coastal communities but also presents an array of risks. In the light of this context, this article explores the concept of systemic risk of cruise ship incidents in general, findings which are then placed in an Arctic context and consideration given of the role the insurance sector may play in addressing cruise ship incidents. The study is based on metadata, both from academic and nonacademic sources. Findings are drawn from 11 global case studies of cruise ship incidents, 5 of which are polar examples. In the worst-case scenario, an array of serious economic, business, environmental, sociocultural, and security impacts may unfold in the Arctic, presenting risks that may be considerably worse than in other parts of the world. Arctic-specific challenges include extreme weather conditions and the presence of sea-ice, navigation and communication conditions, and lack of infrastructure (port facilities, Search and Rescue capabilities). Significant knowledge gaps across the Arctic have been identified, for example, in terms of seabed mapping, how to deal with industry-related activities, and the risks and nature of environmental change. When cruise ship risks in the Arctic are considered, both passenger and shipowner risk need to be accounted for, including Search and Rescue cover. Although data are limited, there is evidence that the sociocultural risks of an Arctic cruise ship incident are insufficiently addressed, either via insurance mechanisms or cross-border, navigational safety guidelines such as the Polar Code. The academic contribution of the study is the systemic scale of the analysis, and the practical and political implications are to lay the foundation for solution discussion that is of relevance in an Arctic and insurance context.

Original languageEnglish
Article number9
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jul 2021

Bibliographical note

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Other keywords

  • Arctic
  • Cruise ship
  • Incident
  • Insurance
  • Systemic risk
  • Worst-case scenario


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