Annual Antarctic Resupply Mission Begins as Sealift Ship Departs California

Antarctic resupply mission
Ocean Gladiator loading at Port of Hueneme before the resupply mission (Military Sealift Command Pacific)

Published Dec 22, 2023 3:29 PM by The Maritime Executive


The Military Sealift Command’s chartered ship MV Ocean Gladiator (17,700 dwt) kicked off one of the most demanding annual missions, a long-distance supply run known as Operation Deep Freeze to take badly needed resources to the U.S.’s McMurdo Station in Antarctica. Ships operating for the Military Sealift Command have made the annual voyage to resupply the station every year since 1955.

MSC Pacific and its Expeditionary Port Unit highlight the careful planning that is required for the voyage. The 545-foot Ocean Gladiator managed by Seabulk Fleet Management has been in Port of Hueneme, California since December 13. Navy Reservists working with the Ocean Gladiator’s crew, port workers, stevedores, and members of the National Science Foundation and Ports of America, careful planned out the loading of 407 pieces of cargo.

“This mission is supporting real-world operations, and not a table-top scenario type exercise like we as reservists normally do,” said Cmdr. Timothy Cushanick, EPU 114’s commanding officer. “This is a fantastic opportunity for all of us, because we are working as a new team, with organizations we don’t normally work with. This mission is special, because of the length of it. Because it is nearly two weeks long, we are able to really get to know all the players, especially the ship’s crew, their capabilities and their needs. These are things we can take with us into other missions.”

The loading consists of containers filled with mechanical parts, vehicles, construction materials, office supplies and electronics equipment, and mobile office units. It is all the supplies needed for the year’s survival at McMurdo Station. The six-member reservist team responsible for managing the loading highlights that weight differences in cargo, as well as the types of cargo loaded and the storage issues, require a specific load order that is planned before the operation begins.

The Ocean Gladiator departed Hueneme yesterday, December 21, with her first stop scheduled for Lyttelton, New Zealand in mid-January. She will load additional cargo in New Zealand and then proceed to Antarctica. She will reach the ice pier at McMurdo Station, where the members of Navy Cargo Handling Battalion One will conduct the offload.

Before departing McMurdo station, Ocean Gladiator will be loaded with ice core samples that will be stored on the ship in sub-zero freezer containers and brought back to the U.S. for scientific study. In addition, retrograde cargo will be loaded onto the ship for transportation off the continent. This includes trash and recyclable materials for disposal and equipment no longer required at the station.

Following the Ocean Gladiator will be the product tanker MT Acadia Trader. The 38,177 dwt vessel managed by US Marine of Virginia is currently on her way to the Port of Los Angeles. She will then be making her way to McMurdo as the second part of the annual resupply effort.