12 Feb 2015

Rescue mission for trapped boat

5:21 pm on 12 February 2015

An Australian ship trapped in ice 1700 kilometres from McMurdo Sound has called for help after damaging its propellor trying to free itself.

A file photo shows US Coastguard icebreaker Polar Star in action.

A file photo shows US Coastguard icebreaker Polar Star in action. Photo: AFP

The 63 metre Antarctic Chieftain is stuck at the eastern edge of New Zealand's search and rescue region.

The New Zealand rescue co-ordination centre has arranged for the United States Coastguard icebreaker Polar Star to head to the site to free the vessel.

The icebreaker is approximately 630 kilometres 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.

Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand and Safety Services manager 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 1480 kilometres to the north west, is also proceeding to the area to provide assistance if required.