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Ship that aided in rescue of passengers in antarctic may be trapped

Jan. 3, 2014 at 7:22 AM

HOBART, Australia, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- The Chinese ship that helped ferry 52 passengers from an ice-bound vessel indicated it may be in trouble in antarctic waters, an Australian agency said Friday.

The Australia Maritime Ship Authority said the Xue Long notified the agency it had concerns about its "ability to move through heavy ice in the area."

The Australian ship Aurora Australis, which is taking the 52 passengers removed from the Akademik Shokalskiy to the Australian state of Tasmania, has been placed on standby in open water as a precaution, the agency said in a release.

"The Xue Long has advised ... that it will attempt to maneuver through the ice when tidal conditions are most suitable during the early hours [Saturday]," the AMSA said.

The Australian agency, which coordinated the rescue of the 52 passengers, said Xue Long crew members weren't in any immediate danger.

The Xue Long, a Chinese ice-breaker, provided the helicopter that ferried the passengers to the Aurora Australis Thursday. The Shokalskiy became trapped Dec. 24 by thick sheets of ice driven by strong winds, about 1,500 nautical miles south of Hobart, the capital of Tasmania. Bad weather hampered rescue efforts.

The Russian cruise ship was retracing the scientific exploration made by Australian explorer Douglas Mawson and his team from 1911 to 1914.

The Shokalskiy's 22-member crew remained on board to wait for the vessel to become maneuverable.

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