MELBOURNE: Australia and China today inked a deal to share information about sea ice conditions around Antarctica for better navigation and shipping in the Earth's southernmost continent.
The agreement was signed between China's National Marine Environment Forecasting Centre and Australia's Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre (CRC) in Hobart city, according to ABC news.
Acting Chief Executive of the CRC Mark Kelleher said the agreement would mean Australian and Chinese scientists would share information about sea ice conditions around the region.
"This agreement is about us pooling our capabilities, so that we can become better at forecasting where the sea ice difficulties are going to be and therefore helping navigation processes," he said.
The two sides were collaborating in the region for 30 years, Kelleher said, adding that research vessels, which could get stranded in sea ice, would benefit greatly from the collaboration.
"Unpredictable sea ice conditions can create headaches for scientific and resupply operations in Antarctica, and the need for a more reliable method of forecasting has become clear. We have also seen a number of private and commercial ships becoming stuck in the sea ice in recent years, which can lead to costly rescue operations that delay scientific work.
"We believe this partnership places us in a strong position to take a lead in developing the models and techniques required to provide reliable sea ice forecasting to aid Antarctic shipping," Kelleher said.
He said research programs depended on full access to the regions being investigated.
"Interest is growing in the Antarctic, particularly in relation to its importance for understanding climate change. The Chinese are as interested as we are in the research that
is going on there to understand what all that's going to mean for us," Kelleher added.
Antarctica, the Earth's fifth largest continent, is covered in ice. Antarctica covers Earth's South Pole.