An Antarctic resupply vessel chartered by the Australian government suffered a fire in one of its two engine rooms while returning from a mission to the frozen continent.
The ice-strengthened MPV Everest was traveling home after a two month resupply mission to the Davis and Mawson research stations in east Antarctica when the fire was reported in the ship’s port engine room just after 2 p.m. AEST on Tuesday, April 6.
The ship at the time was located about 550 NM north-east of Mawson Station, less than halfway between Antarctica and the southern tip of Australia. The Australian Antarctic Division, which charters the vessel, reports that the fire was quickly isolated and extinguished using the ship’s fire suppression systems. None of the 109 people on board were injured and the ship was able to continue using its starboard engine.
“The ship has maintained full power capabilities and is currently continuing its course northwards at 9 knots, using a separate starboard engine room,” said Charlton Clark, General Manager of Operations and Safety at the Australian Antarctic Division.
The MPV Everest was five days into a 14-day return voyage to Hobart when the fire started. An update from the Antarctic Division said the ship will dock in Fremantle, Western Australia, rather than Hobart as originally planned.
“MPV Everest is about 1400 nautical miles south of Fremantle, which is about 5–7 days transit in good weather,” said Clark.
“The vessel is currently running on the starboard engine room at about 8 knots and is making headway to avoid some challenging Southern Ocean weather,” he added.
The Australian Transport Safety Bureau has launched an investigation into the fire and will report its findings. A summary of facts collected by Bureau so far classified the damage to the vessel as “Substantial”.
“At about 1417 AEST, a fire was reported in the port engine room of MPV Everest while it was en route from Mawson Station in the Australian Antarctic Territory to Hobart, Tasmania with 109 crew and expedition staff on board. The ship’s crew activated the port engine room’s water-mist fire suppression system and boundary cooled the engine room. By about 1740, the fire was reported extinguished. The ship resumed passage for Hobart at reduced speed with propulsion powered by the unaffected starboard engine room,” the ATSB wrote in a summary.
The ship’s owner is Luxembourg-based Maritime Construction Services (MCS) and the vessel itself is registered in the Bahamas. Built in 2017, Everest it a ice-class multi-purpose vessel capable of operating in ice up to 1 meters thick.
The families of those on board have been notified of the situation.
In 2016 the Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis briefly grounded near the Mawson station during a blizzard. The incident left expeditioners stranded on board to ride out the storm, but the ship was eventually refloated within a few days without damage.
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