Australia’s Antarctic shipping season for this year has commenced with the departure of MPV Everest for a month-long voyage to Casey research station, 3500 kilometres south-west of Hobart.

The Australian Antarctic Division (AAD) has chartered MPV Everest for two voyages this summer, transporting about 100 expeditioners to and from Australia’s three stations in east Antarctica.

AAD General Manager of Operations & Safety, Charlton Clark, said that the multipurpose vessel owned by Dutch company Marine Construction Services has an international crew with significant Arctic and Antarctic experience.

“The crew has the latest Polar Code training, and they’re operating one of the most highly capable and sophisticated ice-class vessels in Antarctica at the moment,” said Mr Clark.

The 145-metre long MPV Everest is an ice-strengthened ship with the ability to break sea ice up to one metre thick.

The first voyage is carrying more than 680 tonnes of cargo and a million litres of fuel across the Southern Ocean to resupply Casey station for the year ahead.

The vessel is providing an interim shipping service for the Australian Antarctic Program between the end of the 30-year contract with RSV Aurora Australis and the delayed arrival of Australia’s newly-completed icebreaker, the 160-metre long RSV Nuyina.

“MPV Everest was selected after a public tender process as the most suitable for our operations and representing the best value for money,” Mr Clark said.

Mr Clark said MPV Everest is a state-of-the-art vessel, equipped with the most comprehensive navigation and safety equipment.

“It represents a real step-change from RSV Aurora Australis and really is closer to what we’re going to be experiencing in the future with the RSV Nuyina coming online in seasons to come.”

Stringent safety procedures are in place to prevent the introduction of COVID-19 to Antarctica and to ensure the safety of the crew and Antarctic expeditioners.

“People on MPV Everest spent a period of isolation of two weeks prior to boarding the vessel, and undertook three COVID tests,” said Mr Clark.

“MPV Everest will not only be resupplying our stations, it’s also bringing back expeditioners who have been in Antarctica for over a year now, so people who will be coming back to a world that’s changed dramatically since they departed.”