8 Feb 2017

US coast guard vessel to stop at Lyttelton

11:22 am on 8 February 2017

A United States vessel has been granted permission to make a port call at Lyttelton on its way home from Antarctica later this month.

US Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Polar Star

The USCGC Polar Star at McMurdo Station, Antarctica in 2006 Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The US Chargé d'Affaires Candy Green said a port stop for the US Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Polar Star at Lyttelton would save the vessel days of transit time and money.

"We are very excited about this visit, which dovetails with our long-standing Antarctic cooperation," said Chargé Green.

"The USCGC Polar Star is expected to head north after completing seasonal operations in Antarctica."

Last October, the navy detroyer USS Sampson became the first American naval ship to enter New Zealand waters in 30 years.

The US had not sent a naval ship to this country since 1983, as it refuses to say whether its ships are nuclear-armed, as required by New Zealand's nuclear-free law.

Ms Green said the possibility of any future US ship visits to New Zealand would continue to be considered on a case-by-case basis by the two countries.

The US Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Polar Star is used annually to break through the sea ice of McMurdo Sound to allow a cargo ship and fuel tanker to resupply the scientific programmes on the ice. The icebreaker then escorts the ships safely in and out of McMurdo Sound.

The annual resupply allows for year-round scientific activities in Antarctica, and is critical to the operation of McMurdo Station, the US Embassy in New Zealand said.

McMurdo Station serves as a logistics hub for Amundsen-Scott South Pole Stations and various field camps, including New Zealand's Scott Base.

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