The Australian government should consider the purchase of a second Antarctic vessel to boost research on the continent, a Senate inquiry has found.

The Senate Standing Committee on Environment and Communications made 16 recommendations in a report published on Thursday to ensure that science remains the top priority of the Australian Antarctic Division (AAD), Xinhua news agency reported.

After it was revealed that the budgets within the AAD were poorly managed, the inquiry was launched in August 2023, the findings of which were supported by the governing Labor Party, opposition Coalition and Greens Party.

The committee identified problems with the RSV Nuyina, the AAD’s Antarctic Icebreaker, as a microcosm of the issues facing the agency.

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The 528 million Australian dollars (349 million USD) RSV Nuyina has not completed a dedicated scientific voyage since coming into service in 2021, instead being used for resupply missions and has been plagued by technical problems.

The inquiry called for the government to boost funding to allow the RSV Nuyina to spend up to 300 days a year at sea — up from 200 currently — and recommended a business case be developed for the acquisition of a second ship to focus mainly on logistics.

It found that Australia has not conducted a dedicated marine science voyage to Antarctica or the Southern Ocean for five years.

The committee heard evidence that the number of scientists at Australia’s Antarctic bases has fallen by more than half over the past decade.