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

Press release - February 16, 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.

February 14th 2007. Southern Ocean. 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.

One crew member 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 Fisheries Agency of Japan has already refused help from the environmental group, labelling them terrorists. However, the Esperanza is continuing on its course to the stricken vessel.

"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 (1)." Thomas added.

Greenpeace has offered to tow the whaling factory ship out of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and the pristine Antarctic environment. The Esperanza captain Frank Kamp had ten years experience working on salvage vessels before joining Greenpeace.

A second vessel may be required to tow the 8,000-ton Nisshin Maru beyond Antarctic waters through the stormy "roaring forties" weather, though every effort will be made 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."


(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.

Notes: Contact on board the Esperanza: + 872 324 469 014
Sara Holden, Greenpeace International Communications
Karli Thomas, Greenpeace International expedition leader
Shane Rattenbury: Greenpeace +81 906 172 1882

In New Zealand:
Cindy Baxter (media) 021 772 661
Bunny McDiarmid, Executive Director, 021 838 183