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DP World-owned ship plays key role in Antarctica rescue

Amanda Fisher / 4 January 2014

The Aurora Australis, an icebreaker owned by DP World, was still on site, in open water with another rescue ship now in possible distress.

The Aurora Australis on rescue mission. — Wam

Researchers and tourists stranded aboard an ice-jammed ship in Antarctica since Christmas Day have been rescued by a DP World-owned ship — which remains on standby for another possible rescue.

The Aurora Australis, an icebreaker owned by DP World subsidiary P & O Maritime, now has the entire 52 chiefly Australian passengers on board, while the 22 Russian crew remain on the stranded MV Akademik Shokalskiy — which is still lodged in an ice pack — waiting to attempt to free it when weather conditions improve.

A DP World spokesman said the Aurora Australis, which had a “major role in the operation”, was still on site, in open water with another rescue ship now in possible distress. “Fifty-two passengers (were) rescued from the Russian vessel Akademik Shokalskiy (and) everyone (is) okay (sic).”

The rescue was done in conjunction with Chinese icebreaker Xue Long, whose helicopter ferried the stranded passengers from their ship in groups of 12, to the landing pad of the Aurora Australis. The Dubai-owned icebreaker had to abandon an initial rescue attempt when it could not negotiate the thick summer ice and fierce snow and winds.

However, on Friday, the Xue Long notified the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) it had concerns about its ability to move through the heavy ice in the vicinity of the rescue operation, with the Aurora Australis then placed on standby by the AMSA and told to remain in open water “as a precautionary measure”, the AMSA said in a statement.

“The Xue Long has advised...it will attempt to manoeuvre through the ice when tidal conditions are most suitable during the early hours of 4 January 2014. There is no immediate danger to personnel on board the Xue Long,” it said.

Expedition leader and University of New South Wales professor Chris Turney said on Twitter: “Gutted to hear Xue Long issued distress call. All hopes are with courageous Captain Wang and crew.”

Earlier, Turney had express relief at the rescue.

“We’ve made it to the Aurora australis safe & sound. A huge thanks to the Chinese & @AusAntarctic for all their hard work!”

He also expressed relief the ship remained on course for completing its supply mission — something that had now been disrupted as a result of being placed on standby.

“Thanks so much to wonderful crew of @AusAntarctic Aurora. Truly appreciate what you have done,” Turney continued.

Passengers were primarily Australian researchers and tourists, who set off from New Zealand on November 28 with the intention of gathering data on global warming and commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the Antarctic trip made by Australian explorer Sir Douglas Mawson.

P&O Maritime managing director Rado Antolovic congratulated the persistent rescue efforts by his ship’s crew in a DP World statement.

“We are delighted that the passengers of the MV Akademik Shokalskiy have been rescued. The crew of our ship have made repeated attempts to bring the passengers to safety over the last few days in adverse weather conditions and we are proud that their perseverance has helped conclude this dramatic event which has made headline news around the world.”

The 94-metre long Aurora Australis is an icebreaking research and resupply vessel that supports the Australian Antarctic Division’s Antarctic programme through expeditionary and cargo transport from Antarctic bases and marine research stations in the Southern Ocean.

Before being placed on standby, the ship had been heading to the Australian island of Tasmania, where the ship’s operations are based, which it had been expected to reach by mid-January and drop off those rescued.


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