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Greenpeace ship rammed by whalers

Page - January 9, 2009
On the morning of 08 January 2006, in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise was rammed by the Nisshin Maru, the factory ship of the Fisheries Agency of Japan's whaling fleet. Here is the official account presented by Greenpeace to the International Whaling Commission in June 2006. See also these links to weblogs and video evidence.

Statement on the ramming of the Arcric Sunrise by the Nissian Maru

The collision that occurred on Jan 8, 2006 was the result of a dangerous manoeuver of the Nisshin Maru. A close examination of the video evidence provided by the ICR [whalers] suggests that this manoeuver was premeditated.

At the start of the sequence of events which led to the collision, the Nisshin Maru was tied to are supply/transport vessel, the Oriental Bluebird, and was transferring whale meat into it. The Arctic Sunrise was at a distance, observing the two ships and heading dead slow (1-2 knots) in the direction of the two vessels.

The Oriental Bluebird was between the Nisshin Maru and the Arctic Sunrise. Two Greenpeace inflatables were alongside the Oriental Bluebird on the opposite side to the Nisshin Maru The situation looked like this:

When the Arctic Sunrise was about one and a half miles from the two ships, the Nisshin Maru cast off its lines to the Oriental Bluebird and made a turn to port, placing itself on acourse between the Oriental Bluebird and the Arctic Sunrise.

About 2 or 3 minutes before the collision, the Nisshin Maru started the two high volume water cannons carried on the stern of the vessel. The Nisshin Maru was approaching the Arctic Sunrise from her port side so should have taken action to avoid the collision, as required under Rule 15 of the International Regulations for Preventing of Collision at Sea (COLREGS) but did not. As soon as the captain of the Arctic Sunrise saw this, he called the Nisshin Maru on VHF channel 16 to warn it about its dangerous course but he received no reply. He then sounded his horn and put his ship into full reverse. But as the larger and faster Nisshin Maru was cutting across the bow of the Greenpeace ship, it made the collision inevitable, although the Arctic Sunrise was barely moving ahead at the time of the collision. The full reverse manoeuver of the Arctic Sunrise took effect and the ships moved clear of each other but then the Nisshin Maru made an abrupt sharp turn to port, pushing its side, near the stern, against the Arctic Sunrise.The Arctic Sunrise could do noting to avoid either collision. After the second impact the Nisshin Maru trained her water cannons on the bridgeof the Arctic Sunrise, obscuring visibility.

The ICR has claimed that the collision was the fault of the Arctic Sunrise, saying:

"The latest collision was caused by the Arctic Sunrise which though aware of the Nisshin Maru's inability to take evasive action due to the presence on its port side of the re-supply vessel, came straight at the Nisshin Maru."

The following facts refute this:

  1. The Nisshin Maru deliberately placed itself in that position.
  2. The Nisshin Maru did not make any radio call to the Arctic Sunrise to explain intentions or to indicate any restriction in ability to manoeuver, nor did it display any signal to indicate such restrictions.
  3. The Nisshin Maru ignored the COLREGS, the Arctic Sunrise did not.
  4. The Nisshin Maru made a sudden turn to port, toward the re-supply vessel, which pushed its side into the Arctic Sunrise, causing the second collision.
  5. The Nisshin Maru used water cannons to obscure the visibility of bridge crew on the Arctic Sunrise.

The ICR has provided video of the incident taken by two different camera operators, filming from different angles.  Given the speed with which this incident developed, it seems likely that these camera operators must have been dispatched to their positions in advance. The Arctic Sunrise was only able to get a single hand-held camera on deck before being hit. 

After the incident, the ICR placed video clips on its website which appear to show the Arctic Sunrise coming straight toward the Nisshin Maru. But close inspection of the ICR's footage shows a very different story:

  • The Arctic Sunrise has almost no bow wave because she is not coming forward.
  • An ICR video shows a large patch of disturbed water behind the Arctic Sunrise, characteristic of a ship with engines in full reverse.
  • The sharp turn of the Nisshin Maru to port, which pushed her side into the bow of the Arctic Sunrise, causing the additional collision, is revealed by looking at her movement relative to cloud formations seen in the background.

It is certain that the Arctic Sunrise, which obeyed the COLREGS and did everything in her power to avoid the collision, was not at fault. The Nisshin Maru, which ignored the COLREGS and then made a sharp turn that pushed her side into the Arctic Sunrise, was at fault. It appears that the Nisshin Maru may have carried out this manoeuver deliberately, with pre-placed camera operators, to obtain footage which could fool a viewer into believing that the factory ship was an innocent victim,when the opposite is true.

Greenpeace is well known for its core principle of peaceful protest and adheres to that in all its activities including its campaign against commercial whaling.

Video of the incident:

The whalers own video deconstructed (14MB Flash).

Greenpeace video of the ramming.

Read more:

Expedition leader Shane's first hand account from on board the Arctic Sunrise.

The Age article about the incident (their reporter was interviewing Shane by phone at the time).

Diagram of the incident (Flash).