Help making its way to ice-bound fishing boat

A United States Coast Guard icebreaker is making slow but steady progress to assist an Australian-flagged fishing vessel trapped by ice in Antarctica.

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) is responding to a request for assistance from the 63m Antarctic Chieftain, owned by Australian Longline Pty, which became trapped after damaging three of the four blades of its propeller.

The vessel is located at the eastern edge of New Zealand’s search and rescue region, approximately 900 nautical miles (1700km) from McMurdo Sound.

There is a crew of 26 on board, 13 of which are New Zealanders.

The U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker CG Polar Star is making its way to the site to free the vessel. The icebreaker is currently approximately 100 nautical miles (185km) to the west of the Antarctic Chieftain and is likely to reach the area late on Friday or early on Saturday, depending on weather and ice conditions.

RCCNZ Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator Greg Johnston said the fishing boat’s hull was not damaged, and the crew of 26 was not at risk. There has been no spill of oil or environmental event.

“The crew is safely on board, they have plenty of supplies and the vessel integrity is not compromised.

“There is clear water around the vessel, so the hull is not being squeezed by the ice, but a combination of an unexpected build-up of ice floes 2–3m thick and damage to the propeller means it cannot get back to the open sea without assistance,” Mr Johnston said.

The New Zealand-flagged fishing boat, Janas, approximately 750 nautical miles (1390km) to the north-west, is also proceeding to the area to provide assistance if required. It is expected to take 3–4 days to reach the edge of the ice.