Military Sealift Command chartered ship MT Maersk Peary has arrived at McMurdo Station, Antarctica and is currently offloading nearly 6 million gallons of diesel and jet fuel in support of the Operation Deep Freeze 2018 resupply mission.
The scene was the proverbial ships passing in the night as Peary passed by the outgoing MSC chartered ship MV Ocean Giant, who had been at the McMurdo Station ice-pier discharging cargo for the past week. The crews waved at each other as they entered and exited Winters Quarters Bay.
Getting the tanker ship to the pier is the biggest challenge in the ODF fuels mission. Tankers require relatively calm seas and low winds to safely navigate to the ice-pier. In Antarctica, high winds and storms are common this time of year, and make things movement on the water unpredictable and challenging. On Feb. 1, with the silhouette of Peary in the distance, all eyes were on the weather. As the tanker ship made the approach to Winter’s Quarters Bay, the winds were registering 20 plus knots, and the captain was radioing in, “Sorry guys, I’m not going to attempt and arrival in these conditions.” Keeping safety in the forefront, a pause was taken. Within an hour, the winds had dropped to 15 knots and the ship was on its way to the pier. Thirty minutes later, they were tying the lines and securing Peary to the pier. Two hours later, the conditions changed again, a storm had rolled in and there were three inches of snow on the ground.
“Once Peary was moored alongside the ice-pier, no matter how bad the weather is, the McMurdo fuel hoses will be hoisted up to the ship, the manifold plugged in and the discharge started,” explained Larry Larsson, MSC representative in Antarctic. “Weather isn’t a factor in discharging fuel.”
According to Larsson, the fuels operation is less involved than the cargo operations. Since the fuel moves through hoses, there are no cranes or heavy equipment being used and manpower is considerably reduced. A smaller number of technicians highly trained in moving fuel monitor the lines and pumps for safety and flow and environmental protection.
“With fuel, all you have to do is plug in three hoses, one at a time, and wait for 30 hours for the cargo to discharge,” said Larsson. “With cargo, it takes six to seven days to discharge and backload close to 1000 containers. The traffic on the pier is five times more during cargo operations than when we are discharging fuel.”
Over the next five days, Peary will deliver nearly 5 million gallons of diesel fuel and 500,000 gallons of aviation fuel. This combination of fuels is 100 percent of the fuel needed for the next year’s support of the remote outpost at McMurdo Station.
Operation Deep Freeze is a joint service, on-going Defense Support to Civilian Authorities activity in support of the National Science Foundation (NSF), lead agency for the United States Antarctic Program. Mission support consists of active duty, Guard and Reserve personnel from the U.S. Air Force, Navy, Army, and Coast Guard as well as Department of Defense civilians and attached non-DOD civilians. ODF operates from two primary locations situated at Christchurch, New Zealand and McMurdo Station, Antarctica.