Support vessel for fire-hit Antarctic ship

·2-min read

A support ship will be sent to rendezvous with Australia's fire-damaged Antarctic resupply vessel which is trying to dodge bad weather at sea.

The MPV Everest's port side engine room was engulfed by flames on Monday afternoon during its journey home after stops at research stations in the frozen continent's east.

The chartered ship is heading to Fremantle in Western Australia, the closest port, with the Australian Antarctic Division deciding to send a support vessel to meet the ship.

"The Everest is not in distress however we think it is prudent to send an additional vessel," AAD operations manager Charlton Clark told reporters on Thursday.

"For the people on board, they've been through a very stressful situation.

"Having a vessel on the horizon will hopefully provide some reassurance to them that they're getting closer to home and there's some help there should it be required."

None of the 109 people onboard, including 72 expeditioners, were injured in the fire which destroyed two six-metre inflatable boats on deck.

The ship is travelling at about 10 knots, two below its usual cruising speed, and is expected to reach Fremantle in the middle of next week.

Mr Clark said the ship is taking a more northerly route to avoid upcoming weather quite frequent in the region.

"The Southern Ocean is always a challenging environment to operate in. It sees big seas and strong winds," he said.

It will take some days for a support vessel to arrive, with two boats currently being assessed in Western Australia for their capabilities.

A maintenance issue with the Everest's starboard generator, which provides propulsion, was rectified on Wednesday.

The generator was shut down for an hour, with ship then continuing under its own power.

Mr Clark revealed there had been a small fire in the Everest's battery storage area in February which was put out by hand extinguishers.

He said the crew responded "very well" to this week's blaze, which is being investigated by the ship's owners and regulatory authorities.

The Everest was chartered as Australia's Antarctic resupply vessel this summer after delays in the construction and testing of the new $529 million icebreaker RSV Nuyina.