Help on scene for ice-bound boat in Antarctica

The United States Coast Guard icebreaker CG Polar Star is now on scene of the area where the Australian-flagged fishing vessel Antarctic Chieftain is 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 Polar Star has made its way through icy waters and effectively reached the Antarctic Chieftain at approximately 6.50am on Saturday morning.

RCCNZ Search and Rescue Mission Coordinator Conrad Reynecke said the next step will be for the crew on the Polar Star to deploy an ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle) to assess the situation.

“This will allow them to inspect the damage to the three of the four blades of the propeller and help them to assess whether the Antarctic Chieftain is capable of making way through the ice under its own power, or whether they will have to rig tow wires to extract the vessel,” Mr Reynecke said.

Meanwhile the New Zealand-flagged fishing boat, Janas, is also proceeding to the area to provide assistance if required.

“The Janas has been making good progress, and is around 570 nautical miles (1,060 km) to the north-west, and expects to reach the area on Monday night,” Mr Reynecke said.

Weather conditions for all three vessels continue to be favourable.

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

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

The fishing boat’s hull is not damaged, and there has been no spill of oil from the vessel.