The Australian-flagged fishing vessel Antarctic Chieftain has now reached open water in Antarctica and has rendezvoused with New Zealand fishing boat Janas, around 40 nautical miles (75km) clear of the ice, the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand reports.
The Antarctic Chieftain will now head to Nelson under its own steam after it was escorted through ice for three days by the United States Coast Guard icebreaker CGC Polar Star.
RCCNZ coordinated the rescue of the vessel, which became trapped after damaging three of the four blades of its propeller and requesting assistance on Wednesday, 11 February.
The Janas is likely to accompany the Antarctic Chieftain for around two days as its performance in open water is assessed. It is currently travelling at around 7 knots (13km/h) and has around 2400 nautical miles (4445km) to travel to Nelson.
Depending on weather conditions, this could take up around two weeks. The Polar Star is now resuming its voyage home to Seattle.
The Polar Star made its way through the ice to reach the Antarctic Chieftain early on Saturday morning. After breaking the ice around the Antarctic Chieftain, the crew of the Polar Star deployed an ROV (remotely operated underwater vehicle) to assess the extent of the propeller damage and whether the Antarctic Chieftain was capable of making way through the ice under its own power.
The Polar Star crew assessed the Antarctic Chieftain’s propeller blades as too badly damaged for the vessel to be able to use them for propulsion during the first part of the journey from the ice field.
The icebreaker then cut a path through the heavy ice and then rigged up a tow line and began to tow the Antarctic Chieftain through the ice pack, making steady progress. The Polar Star released the tow with the Antarctic Chieftain at times to cut a track through the ice and the tow rope broke twice while the towing operation was underway.
The Antarctic Chieftain has a crew of 26 on board, 13 of which are New Zealanders.
The fishing boat’s hull is not damaged, and there has been no spill of oil from the vessel.