Ady Gil rammedAdy Gil rammedMaritime New Zealand (MNZ) recently issued its final Investigation Report (PDF) following a 10-month investigation into the January 6, 2010 ramming of the Ady Gil by the Japanese whaling vessel, Shonan Maru No. 2.

In this report, MNZ concluded that: "The master of the Shonan Maru No. 2 and the master [Captain Pete Bethune] of the Ady Gil both departed from the prescribed International Collision Regulations and engaged in conduct that resulted in the collision."

Under international maritime law, the Shonan Maru No. 2, as the overtaking vessel, had an obligation to keep clear of the Ady Gil, the stand-on vessel, and it unequivocally failed to do so. Similarly, the master of the Ady Gil, Captain Bethune, had a responsibility to take action to remove his vessel from a dangerous close quarters situation and had ample opportunity to avoid the collision, but failed to do so.

The MNZ report concludes that the collision could have been avoided were it not for the actions and inactions of the Ady Gil's master, Captain Bethune. Captain Bethune's negligence is referenced in more than a dozen paragraphs in the report, including, but not limited to, the following excerpts:

185. By deciding to "sit there and take it," the Ady Gil master intentionally chose not to take any action to avoid the close quarters situation.

203. Good practice would have seen the master of the Ady Gil instruct the helmsman to take appropriate action once it became apparent that a close quarters situation was developing with the Shonan Maru No. 2. The failure to do so was intentional. It continued until the collision.

In addition, MNZ concluded that the Ady Gil lacked effective maneuverability, a hazard which was exacerbated by Captain Bethune's failure to adequately make the vessel safely ready for such maneuverability in clearly tense conditions. According to MNZ, the inexperienced crew members of the Ady Gil were not responsible for failing to adequately anticipate the danger from the approaching Shonan Maru No. 2; this responsibility rested with Captain Bethune.

Essentially, MNZ's analysis of the navigation equipment on board reveals that Captain Bethune failed to make the vessel safe. He did not have effective radar or lookout in place, he did not adequately anticipate or act quickly enough during the overtaking of the Shonan Maru No. 2, and he did not alert or provide the helmsman with sufficient time to react and avoid a collision.

Captain Bethune's intentional decision to take no evasive action--and his failure to alert the helmsman of the imminent danger--nearly cost the lives of several crew members.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was shocked and deeply saddened to discover that Captain Bethune was responsible to a significant degree for the loss of his own vessel. The organization is thankful that no serious injuries were sustained as a result of the collision and that its 30+ year record of returning its crew members safely home after each campaign remains in tact and unblemished.

Sea Shepherd is actively preparing for an early December departure to its 2010-2011 Antarctic Whale Defense Campaign, Operation No Compromise, and expects that this campaign will be the most effective to date, with the greatest number of whale lives saved.

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