Antarctic Supply Ship Returns to Australia After Engine Room Fire
Antarctic resupply ship MPV Everest berthed in Fremantle, Australia at 5:30 p.m. local time Tuesday, after it suffered an engine room fire earlier this month, the Australian Antarctic Division said.
Australia’s chartered Antarctic resupply vessel MPV Everest was about 1,700 nautical miles south of Perth when the April 5 fire engulfed the vessel's port engine room and destroyed two inflatable rubber boats on the deck. There were no injuries to the 72 expeditioners and 37 crew on board.
The ice-strengthened ship, which was returning from a two month voyage to resupply and change personnel at Australia’s Davis and Mawson research stations in east Antarctica, altered its course for nearer Fremantle instead of Hobart following the incident.
While MPV Everest was able to continue north under its own power using its starboard engine, offshore tug GO Spica was deployed to escort the stricken vessel as a precautionary measure taken by the ship’s owner, Maritime Construction Services (MCS). The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) Response Center monitored the transit and maintained regular communication with the vessel.
The incident follows a separate "small fire" that broke out and was quickly extinguished aboard the same vessel in February.
Built in 2017 by Keppel Singmarine, the MPV Everest is an ice class, multipurpose construction vessel chartered by the Australian Antarctic Program for its 2020-2021 season while country's new icebreaking research and supply vessel RSV Nuyina is still under construction.
RSV Nuyina had been slated to make its first voyage to Antarctica for the 2020-2021 summer season, but its delivery was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new ship commenced sea trials in November.
The cause of the fires will be investigated by MCS and relevant shipping and safety regulators, including the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, according to the Australian Antarctic Division part of the Department of Agriculture, Water and the Environment.
Kim Ellis, director of the Australian Antarctic Division, said MPV Everest's return to port marks the end of a "season unlike any other" where expeditioners spent up to 535 days living in Antarctica.
The voyage resupplied Davis research station, and changed over expeditioners who had been there since 2019 after their season was extended due to transport issues caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
"Despite the pandemic changing our usual transport logistics—different ships, no internal flights—we managed to keep Australian Antarctic stations going strong and free of coronavirus," Ellis said.