Esperanza still standing by stricken whaling vessel

Feature story - 18 February, 2007
Our ship the Esperanza is still standing by the stricken whaling ship, Nisshin Maru, disabled by fire in the Southern Ocean. We have already provided information on ice conditions and are in radio contact with the Nisshin Maru crew. We are all hoping the weather holds to avoid increased risk of an oil spill.

The disabled Japanese whaling ship Nisshin Maru with a re-fuelling vessel and hunter vessel tied alongside. Fire broke out on the Nisshin Maru on Thursday and one man is still missing. The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is close by, and has repeated the offer to assist the whaling fleet including possibly towing her out of the Southern Ocean.

Our media officer on board the Esperanza, Sara Holden, said the weather got marginally worse today.   "It's still not bad by Southern Ocean standards, but the wind is picking up, visibility is reduced and the temperature is falling," she said.

Early in the morning, the whaling "spotter" vessel the Kaiko Maru

arrived in the area and we were told that the second such vessel is on route.

We are continuing to offer assistance, including towing if necessary, and are urging the Japanese authorities to do whatever is needed to get the disabled vessel out of this area as soon as possible. If the weather worsens, which is fairly likely in Southern Ocean conditions,  a ship the size of the Nisshin Maru

can easily flounder and sink and with an estimatedthousand tons of oil aboard, it could present a major environmentaldisaster in the pristine Antarctic environment.

The Esperanza is a former Russian firefighting vessel and has the equipment on board necessary to tow the Nisshin Maru

, as well as a captain with 10 years' salvage experience. It is unknown whether the ships in the Japanese fleet have the right equipment, and our captain informs us that in any case the

Oriental Bluebird

, the whaling fleets' refuelling vessel, is too large to manoeuvre the

Nisshin Maru

to safety in rough weather.

Meanwhile we have been using our helicopter, Tweety, for aerial surveys to assessthe ice conditions nearby.  The pack ice to the south of our positionhas moved 3 miles north in the last 24 hours and is now only 10 milesaway.

Keep checking the ship weblog for the latest updates.

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