A stricken fishing vessel adrift in the Southern Ocean has been towed to the safety of sub-Antarctic Macquarie Island by Australia’s ice-breaker Aurora Australis.

The long-liner F.V. Janas started experiencing mechanical problems with its main engine when it was about 40 nautical miles south east of Macquarie Island on Sunday morning.

The Aurora Australis responded to a request to assist the vessel yesterday morning.

Australian Antarctic Division Voyage Leader, Rob Bryson, said it took several hours to set up the towing gear for the rescue.

“Strong winds and a large swell made it quite a challenge for Captain Scott Laughlin and the Aurora crew to attach the ropes to the other vessel, but their skilled seamanship meant we eventually connected with the Janas late yesterday afternoon,” Mr Bryson said.

“It’s taken about 11 hours to tow the Janas to Macquarie Island overnight and we’re now sheltered in the lee side of the island out of the rough weather.

“The safest thing to do from here is to keep the vessel in tow until it can get its main engine working again, with assistance from the Aurora crew and Macquarie Island station.”

There are 21 people aboard the 45 metre F.V. Janas, which 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.