ENVIRONMENTAL PROTEST: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Protesters caused collision with Japanese whaler
, December 11, 2010
The report of the New Zealand maritime agency into the collision between a Japanese whaler and the Sea Shepherd speedboat, Ady Gil, in January 2010 just off the coast of Antarctica, has shown conclusively that the protest boat could have avoided the collision, had it wanted to.
The Ady Gil
was a wave-piercing trimaran, with a top speed of 28 knots (52 km/hr). It was virtually stationary at the time of the collision with the Japanese whaler.
The report is available on the web site of Maritime NZ.
The report concluded that the Japanese whaler was at fault in not avoiding the protest vessel which came to a virtual stop in front of the Japanese trawler. Technically, the whaler was the overtaking vessel which should have kept clear of the protest vessel.
However, "by deciding to 'sit there and take it', the Ady Gil
master intentionally chose not to take any action to avoid" the collision, the report said.
The report also suggests that the crew from the Ady Gil's
mother ship, the Bob Barker
, apparently deliberately threw overboard critical navigation equipment recovered from the Ady Gil
, before the Bob Barker
berthed in Hobart some weeks after the collision. This would have allowed the exact tracking of the vessel's path to be retrieved.
The report said that certain navigation equipment retrieved from the Ady Gil
was made available to Maritime NZ shortly after the collision, but it was of no assistance in determining the cause of the collision.
It then said, "Ady Gil's
master had earlier confirmed that two chart-plotters, referred to as 'Simrads', had been removed from the Ady Gil
. MNZ [Maritime NZ] investigators had anticipated receiving the two Simrads from Bob Barker
when she berthed in Hobart, but these could not be found and the crew were at a loss to explain their disappearance.
"On 24 May 2010, MNZ investigators were advised that a member of the public had found a Simrad washed up on a beach in Tasmania. The Simrad was handed back to the manufacturing company which, using serial numbers, was able to identify the Simrad as being from the Ady Gil
"It is not considered that the Simrad could have remained afloat long enough for it to drift from Antarctic waters to Tasmania. One explanation is that it was thrown overboard before Bob Barker
reached port in Hobart. SSCS [Sea Shepherd Conservation Society] acknowledged that this was most likely the case, and through its own inquiries attempted unsuccessfully to identify the crew member responsible.
"The Simrad was tested for the purpose of obtaining a track record, positioning data, timings and/or other navigational data that may have assisted the inquiry. Some data was recovered, although the Simrad did not hold any track history.
"The examination was unable to determine whether the absence of track history was because the recording function was not switched on around the time of the collision, or whether the data had later been deleted."
These statements appear in a report which the Sea Shepherd skipper said was "fair".
Some months later, on June 8, 2010, the Japanese Government provided navigation records, video and other documentation on the collision to Maritime NZ. Then, mysteriously, the other Simrad "lost" from the Bob Barker
The Maritime NZ report said: "On 16 August 2010, SSCS [Sea Shepherd Conservation Society] forwarded to MNZ a second Simrad that had come from Ady Gil
('the second Simrad'). SSCS explained that this had only recently been discovered, having been inadvertently misplaced on Bob Barker
. Data from the second Simrad was analysed to determine events leading to the collision."
The report also documented the attempts by the Sea Shepherd boats, including the Ady Gil
, to sabotage the Japanese whaling fleet. It said: "Around 0600 hrs AEDT on 6 January 2010, Ady Gil
located and engaged with Nisshin Maru. During this time, Ady Gil
repeatedly cut across Nisshin Maru's
bow and on two occasions dropped lines in an attempt to foul her propeller.
"One of these occasions involved a length of mooring line 80 mm in diameter and approximately 30-40 metres long.
"The other involved a 30 mm diameter rope of a similar length. Neither of these two attempts was successful in fouling the propeller, although they did cause Nisshin Maru
to slow her speed.
"Using a purpose-built air gun, commonly known as a 'spud gun', the crew on Ady Gil
fired apples and raw kumara to Nisshin Maru
. These were aimed at the satellite communications antenna situated above the bridge, with the intention of damaging this equipment.
"Bottles of butyric acid were also fired from Ady Gil
onto Nisshin Maru's
deck and superstructure. Butyric acid is particularly malodorous, and it was intended that the smell would contaminate the decks which would then need to be chemically cleaned before any whale processing could take place."
All this occurred in the hours before the collision. A short time before the collision took place, as the Sea Shepherd vessels moved close to the Shonan Maru
, water cannons were used to deter the Sea Shepherd vessels, and a cautionary warning was conveyed by loud-hailer in English.
Subsequently, the Japanese ship used a long-range high-pitched warning device, to warn the protest ships to get out of the way.
As the Japanese ships bore down on the high-powered Ady Gil
, the protest ship first moved forward, and then moved backwards into the path of the Japanese whaler.
Although the protest vessel's mother ship, the Bob Barker
, was nearby, the Shonan Maru
immediately stopped and prepared its own rescue vessel on standby to pick up the crew of the Ady Gil
. However, they were not needed.
The Bob Barker
then took the damaged Ady Gil
in tow, and headed for the French Antarctic base, Dumont d'Urville. However, the Ady Gil
sank about two days later while en route to the French base.
While it is true that the actions of both ships in coming into close proximity contributed to the collision, as the Maritime NZ report concluded, it is equally obvious that the constant harassment of the Japanese whaling fleet set up the circumstances in which the collision took place. It is further obvious that the actions of the Ady Gil
's master were the immediate cause of the collision.
The report's criticism of the Japanese whaler's failure to avoid close proximity ignores the fact that the Ady Gil
and the Bob Barker
were determined to disrupt the Japanese ships by repeatedly sailing across their paths, and by sabotaging their operations.
:Investigation Report: Ady Gil and Shonan Maru No. 2: Collision on 6 January 2010
(Wellington, NZ: Maritime New Zealand, 2010).