November 18, 2010

Report: Whaling Collision Caused By ‘Poor Seamanship’

New Zealand has decided that the captains of a Japanese whaling vessel and a high-tech protest boat off Antarctica are not at fault for the collision.

The collision, which took place on January 6, cut the bow off the protesters boat.

However, Maritime New Zealand said that there was no evidence that either side deliberately caused the collision, but blamed poor seamanship instead.

The crash took place as protesters from the Sea Shepherd environmental group sought to thwart Japan's annual whale hunt.

Japan abandoned commercial whaling in 1986 after agreeing to a global moratorium.

However, it says that whaling is part of its culture and catches many of the giant mammals every year for its "scientific research program."

Conservationists say the whaling is a cover for the sale and consumption of whale meat.  Every year activists follow whalers in the Antarctic waters in order to attempt disrupting their practices.

Sea Shepherd accused the Japanese ship of deliberately ramming into its boat, the Ady Gil.  The Japanese vessel said the protest boat drove into its path on purpose. 

Maritime New Zealand said that several incidents in the days leading up to the collision had "contributed to a tense operating environment and probable uncertainty over each other's intentions."

It said poor seamanship on both vessels led to the collision.

"(It) appears to have resulted from a failure by both masters and the crew of both vessels to appreciate and react appropriately to the potential for the collision," the inquiry found.

Japanese officials said they need to study the investigators' report before commenting.

Peter Bethune, captain of the Ady Gil, said the Japanese vessel had "disobeyed all of the rules."

He boarded the Japanese vessel a month after the collision and said he wanted to protest about the collision.

He was then taken to Japan where he spent five months in jail before being convicted of several charges and deported to New Zealand.


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