Safety priority for Australian Antarctic Division

31 December 2003

The delayed departure from Hobart of the Russian-registered icebreaker MV Vasiliy Golovnin will allow concerns raised by the Australian Marine and Safety Authority (AMSA) to be addressed.

The ship, chartered by the Australian Antarctic Division for resupply of its three continental stations in Antarctica, was to have sailed yesterday afternoon.

AAD acting director Kim Pitt said that safety of expeditioners was of paramount importance to the Division and that the ship would not sail until all concerns raised by AMSA had been rectified.

"The AAD very much values its expeditioners and the important and often difficult work they do in the very trying conditions that Antarctica dishes up.

"There is no way we would put their safety at risk during their journey south, it just wouldn't make sense, Mr Pitt said.

The ship has been chartered by the AAD from an international shipping company FESCO - Far East Shipping Company.

It was chartered through a selective tender process that included Australian ship owners. This did not preclude the use of Australian ships and crews or foreign-flagged vessels with Australian crews. No bids of this sort were forthcoming

Navigation in Antarctic waters requires purpose-built and strengthened vessels and navigation officers and crews with extensive experience in ice navigation.

Mr Pitt said that surveys conducted before finalising contract negotiations indicated its suitability and full compliance with the standards set by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

"The company committed to meet all IMO safety standards prior to the commencement of the charter. Clearly those conditions have not been met and the company is now working to address the safety concerns of AMSA.

"We are hopeful that the delay will not stretch beyond a few days but the situation is being review on a daily basis," Mr Pitt said.