Greenpeace Ready To Tow Stricken Japanese Whaling Ship Out of Danger and Prevent Potential Environmental Disaster in Antarctica

Press release - 16 February, 2007
The Greenpeace ship, Esperanza is less than twenty-four hours sailing from the disabled whaling factory ship, Nisshin Maru and has made a commitment to the fleet to assist the crew in any way possible and make an environmental impact assessment if needed. One crewmember of the Nisshin Maru is still missing and it is reported that the ship could be carrying approximately 1,000 tons of oil. The vessel is reported to be disabled less than 100 nautical miles from the largest Adelie penguin colony in the world.

The MY Esperanza in the Southern Ocean. The Greenpeace vessel is on its way to offer assistance to the Japanese Whaling fleet's factory ship Nisshin Mauru after it caught fire. Greenpeace has offered to tow the factory ship out of the Whale Sanctuary and the pristine Antarctic Environment.

The FisheriesAgency of Japan has already refused help from the environmental group, labellingthem terrorists. However, the Esperanza is continuing on its course to thestricken vessel.

“Our firstthoughts are for the missing crewman and the rest of the people on board. Thisis not a time to play politics from behind a desk in Tokyo,” said Karli Thomas,expedition leader on board the Esperanza. “This is a human tragedy and apotential environmental disaster. We have a moral obligation to act and thereis a legal obligation under the Antarctic treaty for the Nisshin Maru’s ownersto accept our help (1).” Thomas added.

Greenpeace has offered to tow thewhaling factory ship out of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and the pristineAntarctic environment. The Esperanza captain Frank Kamp had ten yearsexperience working on salvage vessels before joining Greenpeace. A secondvessel may be required to tow the 8,000-ton Nisshin Maru beyond Antarcticwaters through the stormy “roaring forties” weather, though every effort willbe made to take the Nisshin Maru all the way into port.  

“While we recognisethe humanitarian and environmental need to assist the Nisshin Maru, we are notin the business of salvaging a whaling ship in order for it to start whalingagain next season,” added Thomas. “This tragedy should mark the end of thisterrible business and the government funding should be invested not in a new orrepaired ship, but in something that the Japanese people can truly benefitfrom.”

VVPR info: Contact on board the Esperanza: + 872 324 469 014Sara Holden, Greenpeace International CommunicationsKarli Thomas, Greenpeace International expedition leaderIn TokyoKeiko Shirokawa: Greenpeace Japan Communications: +81 90 3470 7884 Junichi Sato: Greenpeace Japan Whales Campaign Leader: +81 80 5088 2990 Shane Rattenbury: Greenpeace +81 906 172 1882

Notes: (1) Under the Antarctic Liability Annex to the Madrid Protocol to the Antarctic Treaty. (Annex VI to the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty Liability arising from Environmental Emergencies) the fire and subsequent events constitute an environmental emergency. In the event that an operator does not take prompt and effective response action, other Parties are encouraged to take such action. It is also clear that significant and harmful impact to the Antarctic environment is imminent and it would be reasonable in all the circumstances to take immediate response action, under Article 5(3)(a) of the Liability Annex.