Chile eyes construction of permanent Antarctica pier

Villa las Estrellas, in Chile's Frei base in Antarctica, is pictured on March 11, 2014 (AFP Photo/Vanderlei Almeida) (AFP/File)

Santiago (AFP) - Chile is carrying out a feasibility study for the construction of a permanent pier at one of its bases in Antarctica, an official was quoted as saying Friday.

The move, being explored by the Ministry of Public Works, would facilitate access to the far-flung area for both scientists and tourists.

The ministry said the first stage was to scout out a suitable place for the pier in Fildes Bay on King George Island where the small town of Villa Las Estrellas, part of the Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva base, is located.

A pier there would be in a strategic location, close to the town as well as several Chilean and foreign bases, Jose Retamales, director of the Chilean Antarctic Institute, told the El Mercurio newspaper Friday.

Villa Las Estrellas was built in 1984 and is home to families of service members stationed at the Presidente Eduardo Frei Montalva base, one of three permanent Chilean bases in Antarctica.

With a population of 80 in winter and 150 in summer, the hamlet has all basic services -- a bank, post office, church, school, as well as radio, television and Internet access.

The pier -- for which an environmental impact study will have to be carried out -- would be permanent, unlike the removable structures currently in place.

Large boats who currently want to dock in the area have to unload passengers and cargo into dinghies in order to get ashore, in what Retamales called a cumbersome process.

Public Works Minister Alberto Undurraga said the pier would bolster scientific research because it would make it possible for more material to reach the region.

Construction plans include a walkway and a boat that would transport containers from ships to the pier, given the shallow water and fierce weather conditions.