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Rammed boat hoped to be salvaged

Published: 6:39AM Thursday January 07, 2010 Source: NZPA

While shocked crew members from the anti-whaling protest vessel Ady Gil come to terms with what they say was Wednesday's terrifying ramming by a Japanese harpoon ship in Antarctic waters, thoughts are already turning to how the badly damaged boat can be salvaged.

Crew member Laurens de Groot says they were "just drifting", waiting for the Shonan Maru to pass by, when they were run down by the whaling ship.

The impact of the collision sheared off the front of the Ady Gill - the former Earthrace high-tech speedboat which resembles a stealth bomber.

Despite such colossal damage to the vessel, Auckland cameraman Simeon Houtman was the only crewman injured. He has broken ribs.

The Ady Gil remained afloat, allowing the six crew members to salvage valuable equipment before being picked up by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society vessel Bob Barker.

De Groot says the team is now working to salvage the multi-million protest boat, which is tied to the Bob Barker.

There are hopes that it could be towed to the French Antarctic base Dumont Durville where there is a supply ship equipped with a crane which could lift the Ady Gil aboard, de Groot says.

Plans have not been finalised, but if they are given the go-ahead, it would take 36-48 hours to reach the base, he says.

Current conditions and the forecast for the next few days are favourable, he says.

The clash was the most serious in the past several years, during which the Sea Shepherd organisation has sent vessels into far-southern waters to try to harass the Japanese fleet into ceasing its controversial annual whale hunt.

Clashes using hand-thrown stink bombs, ropes meant to tangle propellers and high-tech sound equipment have been common, and crashes between ships have sometimes occurred.

Both sides blame the other for Wednesday's collision.

De Groot says there is no doubt in the crew's mind that the Shonan Maru changed direction to target the Ady Gil.

"It came for the port side at full speed," he says.

"I think the captain was so pissed off with us (trailing him) that he wanted to come really close to maybe scare us off a bit but he's misjudged it and run right over us."

Glenn Inwood, a New Zealand-based spokesman for the Institute of Cetacean Research, the Japanese government-linked body that carries out the hunt, disputes the protesters' account, saying video shot from the whaler showed the conservationists' boat moving toward the whaler just before the collision.

"The Shonan Maru steams to port to avoid a collision. I guess they, the Ady Gil, miscalculated."

Inwood says Japan will continue to use its vessels to protect its crew in "whatever way it can".

The clashes are likely to continue until Sea Shepherd pulls out from its protest action, he says.

Ady Gil captain Peter Bethune says he and his crew risk their lives to stop the whaling programme.

"We just think it's wrong, what's happening here, and we're doing our best to put a stop to it," he told Radio New Zealand.

"I think what was demonstrated yesterday is that the Japanese whalers are just a bunch of thugs."

Each southern summer the Japanese whaling fleet travels to Antarctic waters for what it calls a scientific whaling programme. Conservationists and many countries say the programme is a front for commercial whaling and want it to stop.

The governments of Australia and New Zealand have urged both sides to show restraint.

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  • Giant Sequoia said on 2010-03-29 @ 09:35 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Message for Sir Geoffrey Palmer Your suggested compromise with nations like Japan who are illegally and brutally ignoring the conservation pleas is a wrong decision to make. The underlying reason is that NZ wants to have a free trade agreement with Japan. Compromise is equivalent to selling your nation's integrity or soul to the devil. Japan is not a nation suffering from the lack of food - they are suffering from greed and NZ has just been used as a pawn.

  • qwert said on 2010-03-22 @ 06:11 NZDT: Report abusive post

    SSCS is the group ignoring International laws and conventions. The reason No government will attempt to prosecute the Japanese is because they know Japan is not breaking any laws. As is implied in the article, any case brought against them in the int. Court of Justice would likely be decided in Japan's favor. All SSCS is doing making reasonable compromise with Japan more difficult and they are delaying the day when Japan stops all whaling. SSCS games are causing MORE whale deaths, Not less.

  • whalerider said on 2010-03-21 @ 17:53 NZDT: Report abusive post

    By now even McCully must realise that you can't 'talk' to Japan.No Government has taken action over their breaches of Law of the Sea Convention, the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling Convention [various breaches including an abuse of right of Article VIII & other regulations] , the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR) [& other ATS conventions], and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Plus a few other irregularities. GO SSCS!

  • simc said on 2010-02-15 @ 16:04 NZDT: Report abusive post

    cpederson Greenpeace and presumably the sea shepherd have tried numerous attempts to engage and communicate via other mediums, which have not amounted to success. The governments of NZ and Australia have a responsibility to bring these illegal practices to justice, but don't, so who will interfere with this pointless butchery? The Japanese ships collided with protestors countless times, do you really think the protestors really wish to risk their lives by creating a no-way out situation?

  • Zanziabar said on 2010-01-08 @ 20:02 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Not an ounce of sympathy for the protestors on this one, The video shows them directly in the path of the whaling boat. What did they honestly expect to happen? It's a 1000 ton whaling ship that isn't going to be stopped by a plastic boat, It does deliberately seem like the protestors were gunning for this kind of reaction