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Sea Shepherd: Whaling Factory ship rams Korean Fuel Tanker and 3 activist ships
In the Southern Ocean tempers are fraying over whaling with Sea Shepherd hindering all attempts to slaughter whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sancturay in their Zero Tolerance campaign this year being run from the Australian Sea Shepherd Organisation. A Major confrontation erupted today north of the Australian Casey Antarctic Base when Sea Shepherd used it's vessels to prevent the Nisshin Maru Whaling Factory Ship coming alongside the Panama registered Korean fuel supply ship the Sun Laurel.
Image: Japanese whaling factory ship ramming the resupply ship Sun Laurel damaging both lifeboats. Image courtesy Sea Shepherd
The Sea Shepherd ships Sam Simon, Steve Irwin and Bob Barker were all rammed repeatedly by the Japanese factory ship with the Bob Barker sustaining damage to its stern and engine room and taking on water. No injuries were sustained in the collisions, and the situation on the Bob Barker has stabilised with power now restored. The Nisshin Maru also rammed the whaling fleet supply ship the Sun Laurel damaging both life boats. Read full Sea Shepherd breaking news account below.
Refuelling below 60 degrees South is illegal
Refuelling below 60 degrees south is illegal under the Antarctic Treaty, under Australian law and under international law (MARPOL), and the Japanese fleet is in blatant breach in all these jurisdictions. Japan is a signatory to the Antartic treaty.
The Sun Laurel has already spilt oil into the southern ocean below 60 degrees and inside the Australian Antarctic Territorial waters while attempting to refuel the Nisshin Maru with heavy fuel oil (HFO). Sea Shepherd Australia reported:
On the 17th of February at approximately 4:00 pm AEDT the Sam Simon recorded an audio transmission between the Captain and Bosun of the Sun Laurel - the Japanese whaling fleet's refuelling vessel. In this recording, the Captain of the Sun Laurel refers to the oil spill that the Sam Simon had documented and collected samples of hours earlier. The Sun Laurel Captain informed his Bosun to take care covering refuelling hoses, and that if oil dropped into the water there would be a "big problem", as the Sam Simon had caught the Sun Laurel leaking fuel into the wake behind them earlier that morning.
Sea Shepherd believes
"The Sun Laurel is in direct violation of international law. Marpol Regulation 15 Subpart B, Discharge in Special Areas Point 4 states: "In respect of the Antarctic area, any discharge into the sea of oil or oily mixtures from any ship shall be prohibited." In addition, The Sun Laurel has failed to issue a statement on their spill to AMSA, which puts them in breach of MARPOL'S Pollution Incident Reporting Regulations. Marpol 73/78 is the International Maritime Organisation's Convention for the Prevention of Pollution From Ships, to which all sea-going vessels are bound."
It is believed the Sun Laurel has never navigated in the Antarctic ice pack before. But early this morning at about 2am, the Sun Laurel went into the ice, just 15 miles off the ice shelf, and was surrounded by pack ice and ice floes. The Steve Irwin and Sam Simon maintained their positions close to the sun Laurel while the Bob Barker stayed following the slipway of the Nisshin Maru, while the three Japanese harpoon ships circled firing their high powered water cannon.
The Whaling fleet departed Japan much later this year and Sea Shepherd found the whaling fleet on January 29th, before any whales were killed. The fleet was chased for 2500 nautical miles westward for 18 days. There was a two day period when the Nisshin Maru stopped with one harpoon vessel the Yushin Maru #2. That allowed the Bob Barker to catch up with whalers. Some whales may have been killed during that two-day period but not very many.
As the Bob Barker caught up with the Nisshin Maru on Friday 15 February they witnessed one whale being hit by an explosive harpoon and witnessed it's dying over several minutes. They were able to deter transfer of the whale in some brinksmanship behind the Nisshin Maru. With the arrival of the Steve Irwin on Saturday Whaling was shut down. Watch youtube video of SS Bob Barker hindering a whale transfer that took 7 hours to do.
On Sunday, after some dangerous seamanship by Japanese Captains, the Sam Simon withdrew from it's position near the Sun Laurel and witnessed the refuelling of the Yushin Maru and the Shonan Maru. Sam Simon Captain Luis Manho said: "At this point I realised that these poaching ships were determined to refuel regardless of any consequence, be it large scale oil pollution, property damage, or risk of life at sea. In order to protect my crew as well as the marine life of the Southern Ocean, I decided it was in the best interest of all concerned to back away and document this dangerous fuelling operation."
At 11:45 am AEDT at a position of 64° 30' degrees South, 84° 20' East, the Yushin Maru tied up along side the Sun Laurel and was refuelled. At 1:55 pm AEDT the Yushin Maru cast off the Sun Laurel, and was immediately replaced by the Shonan Maru No. 2, currently being refuelled.
Bad weather and sea ice moves in during mid March, so the Japanese whalers have about 23 days left before the whaling season will be over. It seems the Japanese Captains are taking great risks with the lives of their crews and the crews of the Sea Shepherd ships this year.
Sam Simon, Steve Irwin, Bob Barker and Sun Larel rammed by Nisshin Maru
Here is the full account by Sea Shepherd of the Nisshin Maru ramming 4 vessels in the Southern Ocean. It was posted to Facebook about 17:50 19 February 2013 (Melbourne Time):
**BREAKING NEWS** - NISSHIN MARU RAMS S. KOREAN FUEL TANKER, SAM SIMON, STEVE IRWIN, AND BOB BARKER******** END *********
Fleet locations: Group A - Sun Laurel, Yushin Maru, Shonan Maru No. 2, SSS Sam Simon Group B - Nishin Maru, Yushin Maru, Yushin Maru No. 3, SSS Steve Irwin & SSS Bob Barker