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
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,"
"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
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