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The Media, in its various forms, reported this morning that two vessels had collided in the Southern Ocean. It did not take long to find out that they were the Darth Vader Craft DFC "Ady Gil" and the MS "Shonan Maru #2". For those of you who do not know, the first vessel was operated by the Sea Shepherd Pirate Group (SS-PG) and the second vessel is a Security Force vessel of the Japanese Whaling Fleet. Having read the reports in newspapers from around the world NAUTICAL LOG headed for "YouTube" and of course found video already posted there. Referencing other nautical Blogs we came across an interesting discussion by comments on BITTER END BLOG. A good mixture of recreational and professional seafarers addressed the collision from the point of blame. The comments by commenter Tim Flanagan were particularly interesting because he addressed incident reaction to being under pressure over a period of time. This is a very important consideration for those in command positions and something now taught in principal maritime training facilities.

After having studied the available videos several times and looking each time at one particular point NAUTICAL LOG came up with a possible scenario. It was the intention of the Japanese vessel to ram the DFC "Ady Gil" in its capacity as the Fleet Security Vessel. This decision was reached due to the fact that they considered they were repelling pirates. Prior to this incident the DFC "Ady Gil" had been harassing the MS "Nisshun Maru" the Fleet factory ship by running close across the bow trailing ropes designed to entangle a vessel's propellers. It then conducted a similar operation against the MS "Shonan Maru #2". The SS-PG vessels are marked with pirate symbols and fly a pirate banner. Thus the decision-making was based on a reasonable assumption by a prudent Master that the 'Rules of War' rather than the 'Rules of the Road' could apply in an aggressive close quarter situation. Such was the situation the Japanese Master encountered when harassed by the DFC "Ady Gil" just prior to the collision incident.

On the other SS-PG side it was the duty of the DFC "Ady Gil" Captain to conduct this harassment and make every effort to disable the MS "Shonan Maru #2". This is the declared purpose of the Sea Shepherd Pirate Group as displayed in their website and quoted at every interview on every occasion. They go on to say that they will cause close quarter, near collision and collision situations with the Japanese Whaling Fleet on every possible occasion. In their attempts to prevent whale catching they have done so risking their own lives and indeed boast quite proudly of it on international television.

The scenario envisioned by NAUTICAL LOG after repeated studies of the available videos. The MS "Shonan Maru #2" started a turn to Starboard (as per Rules of the Road) to pass around the stern, realized both vessels were far to close and turned back to Port to avoid hitting the DFC "Ady Gil" cockpit full of personnel. Impact took place by a glancing blow to the Port finarm and continued on to sheer off the bow of DFC "Ady Gil". In its turn the DFC "Ady Gil" appears to gun its engine to pass ahead of the MS "Shonan Maru #2", as part of its harassment operation, just before the impact. With an extreme close quarter situation, developed by the SS-PG tactics, a collision was bound to take place. It does cause NAUTICAL LOG considerable concern that the Japanese crew kept attacking the DFC "Ady Gil" cockpit personnel with the its Starboard quarter water cannon after the collision.

Finally it is not known who manns the MS "Shonan Maru #2", it is likely a basic whaling fleet operating crew with in addition a security team, these could be Japan Coast Guard personnel. As too the DFC "Ady Gil" she is New Zealand Flag State with a New Zealand Captain. It will now be the duty of Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) to conduct an Investigation, which in this 2010 'Year of the Seafarer' we will watch with interest.

Maritime New Zealand (MNZ) has already published in their website that such an Investigation is underway and also a second Investigation in response to a formal complaint that was presented by the Japanese Government regarding the behaviour of the NZ Flag State vessel prior to the collision. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority is joining with MNZ in these Investigations. The behaviour of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) will also be under seafarers scrutiny and NAUTICAL LOG hopes that they will show effective leadership.

These acts of piracy by the SS-PG have been ignored and continued each whaling season for several years, it is time to stop them dead-in-the-water.

Good Watch.


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