Maritime Justice in the Land of Oz
Response from Captain Paul Watson on the Australian Conclusion on the Destruction of the Sea Shepherd Vessel Ady Gil.
We just received the report from the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) entitled “Fact finding report into the reported collision involving the New Zealand registered craft Ady Gil and the Japan registered whaling ship Shonan Maru No. 2 in the Southern Ocean on January 6th, 2010.”
I did predict months ago that the investigation would come to nothing because Japan would refuse to cooperate as they did in 2007 when they rammed our vessel Robert Hunter.
And sure enough, the conclusion from the AMSA is that the investigation could not be completed because Japan refused to cooperate with the investigation.
That’s like the police saying, “well we caught the bank robber on video and we had plenty of witnesses BUT hey, he refused to cooperate so we dropped the case.”
We have a 22-page report on why they could not make a decision on the case.
On page four, the report states that the incident did not occur in Australia’s territorial seas. Yet our GPS position from the Bob Barker only a few hundred meters away has the position at 64 Degrees 2 minutes and .835 seconds South and 143 Degrees 5 minutes and .52 seconds East. This is inside the Australian Antarctic Economic Territorial Zone.
The report said that the investigation was hampered by lack of witnesses, yet the entire incident was witnessed by six crewmembers on the Ady Gil and numerous crewmembers from Sea Shepherd and television film crew onboard the nearby Bob Barker.
The report said that the investigation was hampered by the “quality” of the video yet there were three video angles, two of which taken by professional cameramen, one on the Ady Gil and the other on the Bob Barker. The third angle was taken from the Japanese vessel Shonan Maru 2. This means that there was video from the ship struck, the Ady Gil, from the ship striking, the Shonan Maru 2 and position of cameraman observer on the Bob Barker. There have probably been very few collisions in maritime history with three perfect angles caught on film. To say that the quality of the film was poor is ridiculous. The film has been seen on high definition television by millions of people.
The report says that the investigation was hampered by the difficulty of interviewing witnesses yet all six crew on the Ady Gil were interviewed.
Page four of the report states that this report is not related to the investigation by the Australian Federal Police on Japan’s request into the collision. In other words, Japan is not cooperating with the AMSA investigation into the collision but has requested that the Australian Federal Police investigate Sea Shepherd on their behalf.
On page six of the report, the position of the collision is stated as taking place 1300 nautical miles South of Tasmania and 170 nautical miles North of the Antarctic coast. This places the incident within the 200-mile Australian Antarctic Territorial Zone (AATZ) yet the report states that the incident did not occur in the AATZ.
The AMSA report argues that even though the incident occurred in the AATZ, they have determined that for the purpose of the report that the incident occurred in international waters.
On Page 11, the AMSA report stated that the Shonan Maru 2 remained in the area but did not respond to the mayday signal by the Ady Gil. The Bob Barker responded and rescued the crew. The report contains the testimony and the video footage from the Ady Gil crew and video footage from the Bob Barker. The Japanese refused to provide video or testimony.
Page 12 states that AMSA requested information from the Japanese government. The report states, “The Japanese government subsequently advised the Australian Government that it would not be in a position to provide information to AMSA’s questions owing to the possibility that this material might be required in any investigation by Japanese authorities.” (It appears they don’t have Kinko’s in Japan).
The report states that Japan refused to provide information on timing, position, weather conditions, sea state or course at the time of the incident. In other words, the message was “we ain’t talking.”
AMSA concluded that, “it is beyond the scope of this inquiry to investigate the Japanese government’s allegations against Sea Shepherd.” However, according to the report, such an investigation is underway by the Australian Federal Police on behalf of the Japanese government.
So the conclusion here is that Australia is assisting Japan in their investigation against Sea Shepherd, but Japan refuses to assist Australia in their investigation of the actions of the Shonan Maru 2.
The fact remains that the captain of the Shonan Maru 2 rammed and destroyed a multi-million dollar vessel and almost killed six crewmembers of which one suffered rib injuries and no one from Australia, New Zealand, or Japan has questioned this captain.
Instead they arrested the captain of the Ady Gil and he is still being held captive as a prisoner in Japan, despite the fact that he was the victim of the captain of the Shonan Maru 2.
The Ady Gil had the right of way because the Ady Gil was on the starboard side of the Shonan Maru 2, but there is no mention of this in the report. Instead, the report states that the video appears to show the Shonan Maru 2 returning to offer assistance to the Ady Gil. This did not happen, and the report is prejudiced by the wording “appeared,” and further still there is no mention that the Shonan Maru 2 “appeared” to be to the port side of the Ady Gil despite the fact that the video clearly indicates that it was the vessel that should have given way. Instead the Shonan Maru 2 can be seen to alter course to starboard and not to port, a course change that led to the collision that cut the Ady Gil in half. The Shonan Maru 2 is also seen in the video training their water cannon on the crew of the Ady Gil before, during, and after the ramming of the Ady Gil. Yet there is no mention of this. Instead the report states that the Ady Gil was harassing the Japanese fleet, implying that because of that the Ady Gil may have been responsible.
The AMSA Analysis
“Due to the limited scope for AMSA to investigate the incident, the lack of access to the crew and the absence of a detailed response from the Shonan Maru 2, AMSA was unable to collect sufficient evidence to fully examine the circumstances pertaining to compliance with regulations or to conclude the facts of the matter.”
The report says there was an absence of “face to face interviews” (page 13) yet the entire crew of the Ady Gil and crew from the Bob Barker were interviewed face to face.
The report said that AMSA could not independently verify the answers provided by the Master and crew of the Ady Gil with any other available witness statements or information, despite the availability of witnesses from the professional film crew on board the Bob Barker.
So, in the end we have a New Zealand vessel rammed and destroyed by a Japanese whaling vessel in the Australian Antarctic Territory and the incident was captured on three video cameras and witnessed by dozens of people on board two ships including independent parties from media outlets and AMSA says it cannot come to any conclusion because one of the parties, the Japanese whalers, refuse to cooperate.
This report sets new standards in ineptness for investigation. To close an investigation because of lack of willingness from one of the responsible parties to cooperate sends a message to other parties that all you need to do to avoid incrimination is to not cooperate with the authorities.
The New Zealand Maritime Authority is also conducting an investigation and also reporting refusal by Japan to cooperate. I’m betting that Japan will take a tip from this report and will see the advantage of not cooperating and will also not cooperate with New Zealand.
What this will do of course will give Japan the green light to escalate their violence next season. Once they know they can sink a ship without even being questioned, they will realize they can take even more aggressive means to defend the illegal activities of their whaling fleet.
In the unlikely event that someone on the Sea Shepherd ships die or are injured next season at the hands of the Japanese whaling industry, blame will partially be held against Australia and New Zealand for cowering before Japan and refusing to oversee justice.
After all, there are trade treaties to be considered and Japan is used to getting what Japan wants.
It is amazing that only one small non-governmental organization has the guts to stand up to the crimes of the Japanese whaling fleet, while governments cower before or are bribed by Japan to look the other way or to support the slaughter of the most gentle, intelligent, and socially complex sentient beings on the planet – the whales.
The Australian government promised to stand up for the whales. That promise went no further once they were elected. Instead, they have take on a passive-aggressive role in dealing with the defenders of the whales. In other words they are talking big but doing little and it has all become about “pretty pictures of whales, smoking mirrors, and posturing.” Those are the exact words used by Environment Minster Peter Garrett before he was elected, and before he was Minister, when he referred to the lack of action on the Liberal government’s part to defend the whales from Japan.
In other words, the whales can always depend on the opposition in Australia whoever they are or might be, but most likely will never be able to depend upon an elected government (unless that government should happen to be Green).
Fortunately for the whales they have the support of the Australian people who will be reminding Kevin Rudd’s government at the election this year that the ballot boxes are in Oz and not in Japan.
This report is worthless and smacks of political pressure. To end an investigation because of a failure of one of the parties to cooperate is to ridicule the entire process.