In another encounter between militant conservationist group Sea Shepherd and the Japanese whaling fleet, Sea Shepherd claims that two harpoon ships attacked their ship in an effort to force them away from Japan’s factory ship the Nisshin Maru. In what has been an annual dance between the environmental group and the Japanese whaling fleet in the Southern Ocean and Antarctic waters, Sea Shepherd says that this time the Japanese whaling fleet trailed steel cables on a night-time attack late on Sunday in an attempt to disable their ship, the Bob Barker.
Sea Shepherd said that it had managed to steam within six nautical miles of the Nisshin Maru , but two Japanese harpoon ships confronted them off Cape Adare in the Ross Sea, crossing the bow of the Bob Barker a total of 33 times at close range, and trailing the cables in what Sea Shepherd Captain Peter Hammarstedt said was an effort to entangle the ship’s propeller. Hammarstedt said that the Japanese harpoon ships crossed the bow of the Bob Barker 15 times from port to starboard during the claimed attack, and Hammarstedt claims that this is in violation of the International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea. “I radioed the harpoon ships to let them know that our operations are completely lawful and that any aggressive action on their part would be reported to the Australian government and New Zealand Search and Rescue,” Hammarstedt added.
According to Sea Shepherd’s statement, the Japanese whalers also hit the Bob Barker’s bridge with powerful searchlights, making it more difficult for the ship to navigate. Small boats were then launched from the Bob Barker in an attempt to deter the harpoon ships, but the Japanese whalers reportedly threw ice at the boat crews. Sea Shepherd added that Australian Federal Environment Minister Greg Hunt had already been contacted about the encounter. ”I have nine Australians and one New Zealander on board as part of my brave crew who have endured this ruthless assault,” the environmentalist captain said. Hunt, on the other hand, said on Monday that he had conflicting reports about the incident, and that he was currently seeking additional information about the stand-off. ‘‘My message is very clear to all parties – all sides must absolutely abide by international maritime law,’’ he said.