Resupplying Antarctica in one hit instead of three

30 December 2003

In a first, the Australian Government's Antarctic Division (AAD) will resupply its three continental stations in a single voyage with the Russian-registered MV Vasiliy Golovnin.

Federal Parliamentary Secretary for the Environment and Heritage, Dr Sharman Stone, said that as the AAD moved towards air transport, opportunities for greater efficiency in the use of shipping could be considered.

"The resupply of Casey, Davis and Mawson stations in one trip is on a trial basis to see whether it works as well in practice as we believe it will," Dr Stone said.

"This is quite a departure from earlier operations when we used either Aurora Australis or the Norwegian vessel Polar Bird, and its predecessors, to carry cargo and science equipment in separate voyages from Hobart to each station.

"Ships used previously did not have the cargo capacity to transport everything south in one go."

Dr Stone said negotiations were completed in June this year for the AAD to charter MV Vasiliy Golovnin for the summer season with an option to re-lease over the next five years.

"It also leaves the AAD's flagship Aurora Australis more freely available in the middle of the season for marine science," Dr Stone said.

"As a forerunner to the introduction of two new-generation CASA 212-400 aircraft next season, the AAD this year for the first time used twin-turbine engine DeHavilland Twin Otters for the major personnel changeover at Mawson station.

"After arriving at Davis station on board Aurora Australis, the expeditioners were flown the 650 km across the continent to Mawson to replace the over-wintering party. The trip took just five hours instead of the usual several days by ship," said Dr Stone.

"The Twin Otters have certainly served our science and support programs well but they have their limitations. The C212-400s will give us greater range for the long distances between Australia's Antarctic stations.

"They also have a greater capacity to carry more cargo and fuel and that is good news for the environment. We will no longer need to store as much fuel in field depots, greatly reducing the potential for spills and leakages," said Dr Stone.

More information

MV Vasiliy Golovnin

  • Registered in Vladivostok, it is one of a series of Vitus Bering class icebreaking transport vessels purpose-built for service in Arctic and Antarctic waters.
  • Sister ships are also used to support other nations' Antarctic programs.
  • 13,514 tonne.
  • Powered by two 5,730 Kw diesel electric engines.
  • Built to carry general and bulk cargo, cargo fuel oil, heavy vehicles and containers.
  • Fitted with hydraulic electric deck cranes, stern quarter door and landing ramp, helicopter hangar and helipad.
  • 39 crew.
  • Accommodation for 27 expeditioners.