NOTE (10 January 2009): Please read this post in conjunction with my post of 10 January. Later video substantially alters my conclusions.Having reviewed the video and other record of this incident I'd like to go into print once more on a couple of issues:
I made an error in my original post: Despite early reports it does not appear the the Ady Gil was sunk, although damage was substantial. I apologise for that error.
Now to the nuts and bolts. Firstly Sea Shepherd say that the Ady Gil was "dead in the water" or words to that effect. That was not so from the video I've seen. The Ady Gil at a late stage of the incident appears to have used engine thrust which drove her into the side of the Japanese vessel.
COLREGS 1972 are the rules of the road for all vessels at sea. They represent the International Regulations for the Prevention of Collisions at Sea and are published by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).
Now let's look at the legalities. COLREGS 72 Part B Section 2 say, in part:
- 15. Crossing situations
- When two power-driven vessels are crossing, the vessel which has the other on the starboard side must give way.
- 16. The give-way vessel
- The give-way vessel must take early and substantial action to keep well clear.
- 17 The stand-on vessel
- The stand-on vessel may take action to avoid collision if it becomes clear that the give-way vessel is not taking appropriate action.
These are the bare bones of the rules and it is important to note that another section of rule 17 says:
(b) When, from any cause, the vessel required to keep her course and speed finds herself so close that collision cannot be avoided by the action of the give-way vessel alone, she shall take such action as will best aid to avoid collision.
This was undoubtedly a crossing situation. The Japanese vessel was the give way vessel - it had the Ady Gil on its starboard side. Therefore the Japanese vessel is subject to rule 15 and rule 16. It must give way, and it must take "early and substantial action" to keep well clear. It did neither of those things.
The Ady Gil however was subject to rule 17 as the stand-on vessel. It did not take action to avoid a collision as it was required to do.
Should the Japanese vessel argue that Ady Gil was originally more than 22.5 degrees abaft their beam, then they could argue that the Ady Gil was the give way vessel under rule 13. We don't have the evidence for such a claim in the video that I've seen, but it may be that Ady Gil approached from abaft the beam of the Japanese ship and was therefore the give way vessel. Nevertheless, that does not relieve the Japanese vessel of the requirement to take all necessary action to avoid collision.
Culpability on both sides, clearly and by video evidence. Further there appears to be video evidence that Sea Shepherd are not being entirely transparent with their claims. The Ady Gil was NOT dead in the water.
So here we go. Sea Shepherd are committed to stopping whaling. Good on them, I understand that they wish to see whaling stopped, so do I. However they are clearly breaking the laws of the sea in so doing. That's not OK, those regulations are in place to stop people being killed in collisions.
Now to Japan. The Japanese vessels should, in my view cease whaling immediately and go home and stay there. They clearly did not comply with COLREGS and Japan as the flag state should take action against the master of the vessel for failure to comply. I have faint hope that that might happen. However, despite the fact that they shouldn't even be there, the Sea Shepherd guys are putting the Japanese in a very difficult situation. By continually harassing them they place the Japanese in a situation where they must always be turning away to comply with COLREGS. Despite what the Japanese think, they are required to do so. I can see why they may not wish to. To do so means that they have let Sea Shepherd drive them from their goal. Nevertheless they must do what is required to avoid a collision.
Overall my fear is that we will see deaths in the Southern Ocean if this behaviour continues from both parties. Flag States must act decisively now to ensure that skippers behaving in this fashion are disciplined and that, if necessary their ships are arrested.
Enough: Stop killing whales and stop playing dangerous games with each other in the Southern Ocean. Oh and stop bullshitting us about what happened as well.
Here's the video:
Just a further update on this, with a video from Sea Shepherd. From this video (below) it could be argued that the Japanese vessel turned towards the Ady Gil. It's hard to know, given the sea state at the time.
In any event, it doesn't alter the argument I've set out in the body of the text.