Masters commanding Japanese whaler Shonan Maru No. 2 and the whaling protest boat Ady Gil departed from International Collision Regulations and engaged in conduct that resulted in the collision says a report released by Maritime New Zealand. The report highlights the need for all masters to exercise restraint and ensure safety remains their highest priority, says Maritime New Zealand, MNZ.
Among the report’s conclusions:
Shonan Maru No. 2 was an overtaking vessel within the meaning of the International Collision Regulations and, as such, the master of Shonan Maru No. 2 had an obligation to keep clear of Ady Gil;It was considered likely that Shonan Maru No. 2 was aware of Ady Gil and its location; Shonan Maru No. 2 had ample opportunity to avoid creating the close quarters situation that developed and the subsequent collision; Shonan Maru No. 2 failed to keep well clear of Ady Gil.
The master of Shonan Maru No. 2 was almost certainly aware of Ady Gil’s unpredictability, and that its master could not be relied on to act as a ‘normal’ seafarer might. Commentary from the Shonan Maru No. 2 video suggests the Shonan Maru No. 2 master was anticipating an attempt to foul Shonan Maru No. 2’s propeller. This added an element of uncertainty to the close quarters situation.
Ady Gil, in this instance, was the stand-on vessel. As such, Ady Gil also had a responsibility to take action that would avoid a collision; The International Collision Regulations allowed for Ady Gil to take appropriate action when it became apparent that Shonan Maru No. 2 was not complying and was not going to keep well clear. This course of action was not taken. Rather, the Ady Gil master chose to
maintain his course and speed, which allowed for the close quarters situation to develop into a collision risk; The failure of Ady Gil’s master to communicate the situation to the helmsman, and the failure of the helmsman to monitor the radar, resulted in an insufficient lookout being maintained. For this reason, and because he had not been monitoring the radar, the helmsman had insufficient time to avoid the close quarters situation altogether, or to take substantial action to avoid the collision once he became aware it was imminent.
There was insufficient evidence to determine the extent to which the action of accelerating forward by the Ady Gil helmsman contributed to the collision, or if this action merely changed the point of impact. Ady Gil failed to take sufficient action to avoid the collision when it became apparent that the collision could not be avoided by the action of Shonan Maru No. 2 alone.
The Director of MNZ, Catherine Taylor, said its report into the collision between the New Zealand-registered whaling protest vessel Ady Gil and the Japanese vessel Shonan Maru No. 2 on 6 January 2010, found no evidence that either vessel master had deliberately caused the collision. However, both were responsible for contributing to and failing to respond to the ‘close quarters’ situation that led to the accident.
The collision, which occurred in international waters about 165 nautical miles north of Antarctica, resulted in 3.5m of the Ady Gil’s bow being sheared off. Some Ady Gil crew members also sustained injuries.
“This accident is a wake-up call to all vessel masters, no matter whether they’re operating in the Southern Ocean or the Hauraki Gulf, that they are ultimately responsible for the safety of their vessels and all on board. This means consistently following internationally recognised safe seafaring practice, which includes maintaining a proper lookout at all times and following established anti-collision regulations.”
Ms Taylor said previous encounters between whaling and protest vessels had contributed to a tense operating environment and probable uncertainty over each others’ intentions, but this was no excuse.
“MNZ reiterates the Government’s and the international maritime community’s calls for all masters to take their responsibilities seriously and exercise appropriate restraint, particularly when operating in an environment as isolated and as unforgiving as the Southern Ocean, where access to any assistance is extremely limited.
“We also echo the International Maritime Organization’s denouncement of any action that puts lives at risk, and reaffirm the responsibility that all vessel masters have to ensure the safety of lives at sea.”
Ms Taylor said preparation of MNZ’s report had involved analysing a significant amount of information, including technical data from both vessels, interviews with witnesses, and 25 hours of video footage. It had been drafted with input from MNZ’s own team of master mariners, and independently reviewed by an external maritime expert. All parties involved had cooperated with MNZ’s investigation, she said.
“This report is the culmination of an extremely robust and thorough investigation, based on the facts and information made available, and we acknowledge all parties who came forward and assisted us.”
Ms Taylor said MNZ’s role was to independently investigate maritime accidents involving New Zealand vessels or vessels within New Zealand territorial waters, with the prime purpose of determining their cause and whether there were any regulatory or safety issues requiring further action. While MNZ had no jurisdiction over foreign vessels operating in international waters, it had submitted its report to the IMO and other countries with responsibility for vessels involved in whaling and protest activities, calling for their attention to its findings.