Esperanza ready to tow Nisshin Maru out of danger

Feature story - 16 February, 2007
The Esperanza is ready to tow the stricken Japanese whaling vessel the Nisshin Maru out of danger and prevent potential Antarctic environmental disaster.

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.

Onboard the Greenpeace ship Esperanza in the Southern Ocean - campaigning against illegal whaling - we find ourselves in an unexpected situation. The vessel we had been searching for - the Japanese factory whaling ship Nisshin Maru - issued a distress call after a serious fire broke out on board.

Esperanza on course

The Esperanza is now less than a day's sailing from the disabled whaling ship. We've 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's reported that the ship could be carrying approximately 1,000 tons of oil and sitting 100 nautical miles from the largest Adelie penguin colony in the world.

The Fisheries Agency of Japan has already refused help from Greenpeace, labelling us "terrorists". However, the Esperanza is continuing on its course to the stricken vessel.

Greenpeace Japan's Executive Director and Whales Campaigner offer help to the Japanese Environment Ministry

"Our first thoughts are for the missing crewman and the rest of the people on board. This is 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 a potential environmental disaster. We have a moral obligation to act and there is a legal obligation under the Antarctic treaty for the Nisshin Maru's owners to accept our help." Thomas added.

Offer of help

We have offered to tow the whaling factory ship out of the pristine Antarctic environment of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The Esperanza's captain, Frank Kamp, had ten years experience working on salvage vessels before joining Greenpeace. Another vessel may be required to tow the 8,000-ton Nisshin Maru beyond Antarctic waters through the stormy "Roaring Forties" weather, though we'll be making every effort to take the Nisshin Maru all the way into port.

"While we recognise the humanitarian and environmental need to assist the Nisshin Maru, we are not in the business of salvaging a whaling ship in order for it to start whaling again next season," added Thomas. "This tragedy should mark the end of this terrible business and the government funding should be invested not in a new or repaired ship, but in something that the Japanese people can truly benefit from."

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