The fire started just after 2pm, engulfing the port engine room and destroying two inflatable rubber boats stored on the deck.
None of the 109 expeditioners and crew were injured in the incident.
Australian Antarctic Division General Manager of Operations and Safety, Charlton Clark, said the Captain of MPV Everest has decided to head for the closest port.
“MPV Everest is about 1400 nautical miles south of Fremantle, which is about 5–7 days transit in good weather,” Mr Clark said.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) Response Centre is monitoring the transit of the MPV Everest and in regular communication with the vessel.
“The vessel is currently running on the starboard engine room at about 8 knots and is making headway to avoid some challenging Southern Ocean weather.”
“The Australian Antarctic Division is really focused on getting our expeditioners home safe and well, as soon as possible,” he said.
“We are maintaining contact with the families of those on MPV Everest to keep them informed of the situation.”
The ice-strengthened ship has just completed a two month voyage to Antarctica, resupplying and changing over personnel at Australia’s Davis and Mawson research stations.
The cause of the port engine room fire will be investigated by the ship’s owner, Maritime Construction Services (MCS), and relevant shipping and safety regulators.