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US Coast Guard vessel to stop in Lyttelton

NZ Newswire logoNZ Newswire 7/02/2017

A US Coast Guard vessel will stop in Lyttelton on its way back from Antarctica later this month, the second visit by a US ship in mere months after a decades-long break.

USCGC Polar Star will stop at the port near Christchurch on its way back from McMurdo Sound where it breaks a channel through the ice to allow a cargo ship and fuel tanker to resupply scientific programs.

It's the first time since the 1998 that the Polar Star has stopped in New Zealand and even then it was an unplanned port call for repairs on a shaft seal.

The last planned stop of a Coast Guard ship was the 1980s.

The Polar Star usually stops over in Tasmania.

Coming to New Zealand makes a lot of sense, says US Charge d'Affaires Candy Green.

"A number of the scientific programs in Antarctica will benefit from this year's supply stop in Lyttelton. This visit saves days of transit time for the vessel and the fuel associated, saves money, and strengthens our joint cooperation on the ice," she said.

It follows the visit of the USS Sampson in November, the first US warship to visit New Zealand since the anti-nuclear stand-off of the mid 1980s.

The Sampson, a destroyer, came to New Zealand for the Navy's 75th anniversary celebrations and stayed to assist in the wake of the Kaikoura earthquake.

Prime Minister Bill English thanked US President Donald Trump for the crew's help during their first phone call on Monday.

The Polar Star's arrival date will be confirmed when the icebreaker leaves Antarctica.

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