The conflict in the Southern Ocean between Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) and Japanese whalers has escalated dangerously once more. SSCS claims that the Bob Barker has once again been rammed amid the arrival of a new Japanese Naval ship.
The latest clash followed an earlier incident on Feb. 20, when according to SSCS Australia, the ginormous whaling factory ship -- the Nisshin Maru, rammed four other ships in one hour.
Now the conservation group is reporting another altercation after the Japanese fleets' refueling tanker -- the South Korean vessel Sun Laurel, once again attempted to refuel the 8,000 ton factory vessel.
SSCS reported across social media that all of its crews were safe after the Nisshin Maru caused further multiple collisions.
"As of 1400 AEDT," Sea Shepherd said, "the Nisshin Maru attempted another refueling operation for the Japanese whale poachers in Australia's Antarctic Territory, with a massive Japanese Naval Ship, the Shirase, available for backup."
The 12,500 ton Shirase, with "220 crew on board and three helicopters" arrived to support the whaling fleet in Australia’s Antarctic territory yesterday morning. Late last night, SSCS reported that the Nisshin Maru:
Caused at least three collisions: twice with the Bob Barker, shoving the ship into the Sun Laurel at 1448 AEDT and 1516 AEDT, and ramming the Sam Simon at 1715 AEDT. The Bob Barker has sustained major damage from being sandwiched between the Nisshin Maru and the fuel tanker Sun Laurel. The engine room is now visible through a crack in the floor of the galley. The Sam Simon has massive scratches and dings along their hull, and a smashed satellite dome.
The three Yushin Maru harpoon ships crossed the bows of Sea Shepherd ships trailing propeller-fouling lines. The Sam Simon, Steve Irwin, and Bob Barker have had flooding in their engine from the Nisshin Maru's water cannons. The Nisshin Maru threw a flash bang grenade that exploded off the port stern of the Sun Laurel, leaving large black charred marks.
SSCS vessel, the Bob Barker sandwiched between the Nisshin Maru on one side and the South Korean tanker -- the Sun Laurel.
Sea Shepherd released a video of the partial altercation a short while ago (see above).
Of particular concern implied Sea Shepherd Captain Paul Watson aboard the Steve Irwin, is that the Sun Laurel fuel tanker in not an ice-class vessel. While speaking to Australia's The Age newspaper, Watson said that at one point, the tanker was steaming through the ocean at night doing at least 12 knots without a light, an act that is "also illegal", he said.
With the Bob Barker sandwiched, a flash bang grenade launched from the Nisshin Maru explodes off the port stern of the Sun Laurel, a South Korean fuel tanker.
Image: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
According to MARPOL Annex I amendments, Chapter 9, (the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships), the carriage of certain types of oils either as cargo or use as a fuel in the Antarctic area is prohibited. The amendmentpProposed in March 2010, entered into force on August 1, 2011. An oil spill from the Sun Laurel, which has already lost all of its emergency lifesaving equipment in the previous clash, would be devastating to all marine life in the region.
Australian government dragging its heels?
Despite the threats imposed to life, limb and environment, the Australian government still appears reluctant to get actively involved. Australian environment minister Tony Burke, told Stuff.co.nz that he had "Issued a please-explain to Japan about the ship's (Shirase) role, suggesting it was exploiting a loophole by assisting the Korean tanker rather than the Japanese whalers directly."
"Japan has told the government that the Shirase is not involved in supporting their so-called scientific whaling fleet," Mr Burke said in a statement, however reports that "helicopters flying from the Shirase to the South Korean tanker being used for the refueling of the Japanese whaling fleet mean there is a further question to be answered," he added.
Image: Sea Shepherd Conservation Society
Watson meanwhile believes that Australia needs to act now and send a ship to oversee the conflict, especially now that the "heavily armed" Shirase is in play. During his interview with The Age, he said:
It's strange that Australia doesn't send a vessel down here to monitor the situation or keep the peace but Japan sends a vessel all the way from Japan to defend their whaling fleet. Australia's taking Japan to court, you would think they'd have some interest in this.Japanese government claims sabotage
Japan's Institute for Cetacean Research (ICR), said in a press release today that the Nisshin Maru and her supply tanker were "again subject to sabotage by the Sea Shepherd ships Steve Irwin, Bob Barker and Sam Simon".
According to The Australian, the ICR said the "Sea Shepherd's Bob Barker vessel collided with the Nisshin Maru and its fuel tanker ship at least five times, as the activist ships repeatedly forced their way between the Nisshin Maru and her supply tanker." The institute released its own video which can be viewed here.
The Nisshin Maru's water cannons were deployed as a preventative measure said the ICR who added that it had suspended refueling operations as a safety measure against "malicious and inconceivably obstructive" behavior. The institute also declared that the fuel being ferried by the Sun Laurel, is approved for use in Antarctic waters.
The Sun Laurel, "Has packed away their crane and fenders for the day," said SSCS, "meaning that Sea Shepherd has now successfully blocked a third attempt to refuel a whaling fleet illegally operating in contravention of an Australian Federal Court ruling prohibiting whaling in Australian Antarctic Territory."
Arrival of Japanese military ship similar to Shonan Maru suggests SSCS director
In a new press release just moments ago Director of Sea Shepherd Australia, Jeff Hansen, compared the arrival of the Shirase with the Shonan Maru No. 2 in 2007. Both ships were given permission to dock in Fremantle by the Australian Government because they were not considered a part of the whaling fleet. Hansen explained:
Then in January 2010, the same vessel, the Shonan Maru No. 2, went on to ram and destroy the New Zealand registered vessel the Ady Gil. Australian diplomats were quick to absolve Japanese whalers of blame, telling the U.S. Embassy in Canberra the Japanese would 'come away clean' from any investigation.
Effectively, we expect that once again, Japan will come away clean from any Australian investigation into these recent, blatant ramming attempts by the massive factory whaling ship, the Nisshin Maru. What effectively is happening is that the Australian Government is giving Japan the green light to do what ever it wants in endangering the lives of Sea Shepherd's international crew in Australia's Antarctic Territory.
Sea Shepherd also posted an additional video (below) which they said, "Clearly shows the fault of the collision on the Nisshin Maru. According to COLREGS, the Bob Barker had the right of way, and the Nisshin Maru had no right to move closer to the Bob Barker," the group said.