The Argentine and Chilean navies combined efforts once more to guarantee ship security and protect southern waters through the Combined Antarctic Naval Patrol (PANC, in Spanish). PANC’s 21st edition will patrol Antarctic waters until March 31.
The objective of the binational military component is to keep vessels secure as they navigate Antarctic waters and respond to maritime emergencies. Naval units also bring logistics support to scientific activities and Antarctic bases.
“PANC’s role is to provide search and rescue, maritime rescue, and pollution control,” Argentine Navy Lieutenant Commander Augusto Lizondo, chief of Southern Naval Operations (ANAU, in Spanish), told Diálogo. “The goal [is to] secure navigation and human life at sea, and help keep the waters free of pollution.”
For the four-month mission, the Argentine Navy deployed the dispatch boat ARA Islas Malvinas, while Chile contributed with the tug vessel ATF-67 Lautaro and the maritime patrol boat OPV-83 Marinero Fuentealba. A total of 120 service members from both countries take part in PANC, including sailors, medical personnel, meteorologists, and tactical and rescue divers.
PANC’s tasks are performed in maritime areas beyond Tierra del Fuego, the southernmost tip of South America, shared by Argentina and Chile. “The activity period is divided into four stages of 33 days each, with a unit either from Chile or Argentina stationed in the Antarctic sector at each stage,” said Lt. Cdr. Lizondo.
The Argentine and Chilean navy ships alternate the four periods—named Alfa, Bravo, Charlie, and Delta—configured as Antarctic service or support ships. Chile’s ATF-67 Lautaro kicked off PANC activities on November 15, 2018.
On December 19, the ARA Islas Malvinas began patrolling the icy waters of Antarctica until January 22. The Chilean Navy leads the Charlie stage until February 26, while the ARA Islas Malvinas will conclude the patrol upon returning to its home port in Ushuaia in late March.
“We conduct search-and-rescue missions and maritime rescue, and we provide support to units and bases in the Antarctic sector,” said Lt. Cmdr. Lizondo. “That way, mutual trust is established between the two countries, as well as support in monitoring the Antarctic areas of responsibility.”
Other activities include meteorological support for vessels navigating the area, emergency medical assistance, transport of people—especially scientists between Antarctic bases or stations—and logistics supply. “Since PANC began, it assisted with many emergencies occurring in the area of responsibility, including rescuing ship crews stranded in this area,” Chilean Navy Captain Miguel Alarcón, chief of the Navy’s Antarctic Affairs, told Diálogo.
To facilitate operations, an exchange officer of each navy boards each ship so that operations can run smoothly. ANAU and the Chilean Navy’s Third Naval Zone Command lead the activities that strengthen mutual trust between military institutions.
“Considering that, based on the Antarctic Treaty, the continent is an area devoted to peace and science, with special care for the environment and its condition as a natural reserve, it’s been particularly relevant for both countries to combine work in activities meant to safeguard human life at sea,” said Capt. Alarcón. “In addition, it’s important to consider that PANC helps shorten response times and enable prompt, effective assistance in the area in case of emergencies.”
PANC was created after the 1984 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between Chile and Argentina, and has been conducted without interruption since 1998. According to Capt. Alarcón, Antarctica is crucial to both countries.
“We should keep in mind that Chile and Argentina are the closest countries to the Antarctic Peninsula,” said Capt. Alarcón. “In Chile and Argentina’s maritime domains, this activity enabled us to standardize procedures, and increase interoperability between the two navies, as well as in search-and-rescue missions in Antarctica, contributing to the optimization of human and material resources for both institutions.”
During the last edition of PANC, the binational military component provided support to 11 Antarctic bases, navigating more than 14,000 nautical miles in 120 days. “This joint effort shows the excellent level of interoperability in our combined maritime operations, achieved through a long process of fostering trust and friendship,” said Admiral José Luis Villán, chairman of the Argentine Navy’s Joint Chiefs of Staff.