Tuesday, December 20, 2011


Republic of Korea icebreaker MS Araon.

Ice is not an area to navigate in without specialised knowledge of it and a specially designed vessel to navigate it in.   Having served as a Watchofficer in an icebreaker NAUTICAL LOG speaks from first hand experience. 

Russian Flag State FV Sparta floating in a lead but trapped in the ice.

Trapped and holed in the Antarctic Region of the Ross Sea is the Russian Flag State FV Sparta.  There are immediately two questions to ask; Why was she fishing in the Antarctic Region ? Why was a non-icestrengthened vessel there at all?

There are two vessels trying to assist her one is another fishing vessel (FV) which could well get in difficulties herself thus making two problems, the other is the Korean (South) icebreaker MS Araon.  She left the Port of Lyttleton, NZ and is headed to the distress area, this should take about another week.

The Deputy Head of the Russian Antarctic Expedition at the Research Institute of the Arctic and Antarctic Regions Vyacheslav Martanov is not pleased.  On the Voice of Russia he said that the area where the Russian FV is in distress is one of the most icy zones of Antarctica.  Further quoted was Alexei Knishnikov who stated that currently there are no technical solutions for cleaning fuel spills in icy areas.  And to think the NZAF dropped a pump and fuel to the distressed FV - one has to wonder at the thinking, if any, behind that decision distress or no distress.  FV Sparta is the responsibility of the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre (NZRCC); perhaps our readers will recall the controversial decision making by NZRCC last season involving assistance to the SY Berserk when she was lost last year.

So what is the answer as to why the FV Sparta was fishing in the Region in the first place?  Well you see she was licensed to fish in New Zealand 's Ross Sea by the 25-nation Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources based in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia.  The Commission is under pressure to create a Marine Reserve over the Ross Sea but this is being resisted by one of the 25 nations of the Commission which just happens to be the principal toothfishing nation in the area - New Zealand.

Isn't that interesting and both Australia and New Zealand Ports host the Sea Shepherd vessels and resupply them for activities against the Japanese Whaling Fleet which use piracy tactics.  So it appears that while whaling is generally considered deplorable, and it is, the toothfishing in Antarctica in non-icestrenthened vessels is acceptable to the Government of New Zealand which of course operates the New Zealand Rescue Coordination Centre making those controversial decisions.

NAUTICAL LOG would suggest that the Governments involved need to think things out on the broad picture not their narrow little short term interests to reach constructive decisions.  If they do not both the whales, the toothfish will be begone from the sea, and the krill contaminated by fuel spills with the resulting chain reaction affecting every aspect of life in Antarctica.  At present in both Tasmania and New Zealand its a case of,

 "What do I care mate I'm in good shape, here have a another brew, no worries she'll by right mate."

Good Watch

On another point which governments do not much care about either are the over 300 of our fellow seafarers held captive by pirates off the coast of Somalia.  No Christmas for them again this year and no rescue in sight.

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