Help on the way for ice-bound fishing boat

The Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand (RCCNZ) is organising help for an Australian-flagged fishing boat trapped by ice in Antarctica.

The 63m Antarctic Chieftain, owned by Australian Longline Pty, requested assistance from RCCNZ on Wednesday, 11 February, after becoming trapped and damaging its propeller.

The vessel is located at the eastern edge of New Zealand’s search and rescue region, approximately 900 nautical miles (1,700km) from McMurdo Sound.

RCCNZ has arranged for the United States Coastguard icebreaker CG Polar Star, to head to the site to free the vessel. The icebreaker is currently approximately 340 nautical miles (630km) to the west of the Antarctic Chieftain and is likely to reach the area late on Friday or early on Saturday, depending on progress and weather conditions.

Manager of RCCNZ and Safety Services Mike Hill said the fishing boat’s hull was not damaged, and the crew of 27 was not at risk. There has been no spill of oil or environmental event.

“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 Hill said.

“Once the icebreaker arrives at the scene, it may take some time to break through the ice to reach the Antarctic Chieftain but the fishing boat is well equipped with supplies and weather conditions are reasonable for the area.” The New Zealand-flagged fishing boat, Janas, approximately 800 nautical miles (1480km) to the north west, is also proceeding to the area to provide assistance if required.

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