Australia’s ice-breaker Aurora Australis is assisting a fishing vessel with mechanical difficulties in the Southern Ocean.

The long-liner F.V. Janas is experiencing problems with its main engine and is currently about 35 nautical miles south-south east of the sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island.

Australian Antarctic Division Voyage Leader, Rob Bryson, said the fishing vessel began experiencing problems last night and requested assistance early this morning.

“The Aurora Australis is now alongside the ship and is attaching a tow rope,” Rob Bryson said.

“I expect it will take several hours to tow the ship back to Macquarie Island where it can shelter in the lee of the island before a big low pressure system pushes up from Antarctica later today,” Mr Bryson said.

The 21 people aboard the 45 metre F.V. Janas are all reported to be safe. The vessel is an Australian flagged vessel operated by Australian Longline, based in Devonport, Tasmania.

The Aurora Australis is currently under charter to the Royal Australian Navy and has been working at Macquarie Island as part of the Australian Antarctic program.