Earthrace Powerboat Sunk By Japanese Whalers

January 8, 2010

Two days ago, the Japanese whaler Shonan Maru No. 2 rammed and severely damaged Earthrace, the World Record Holder for fastest powerboat circumnavigation. Earthrace sank this morning in the Southern Ocean after salvage efforts failed. She was currently named Ady Gil after its Hollywood mogul beneficiary. She is owned by Sea Shepards and was part of the anti whaling activism.

For details about the collision event, see the blog post below “Japan Whalers Destroy Earthrace Trimaran”. The blog argues that videos show that the Japanese vessel instigated the event and failed to obey legally established maritime rules of way.

Some reports argue that Earthrace share responsibility by not maintaining proper course. Those reports fail to recognize that it is the Japanese vessel’s responsibility to avoid creating an incidence in the first place. Once they created the incidence, the Japanese did not take effective evasive action to avoid collision. They steered a course too close to Earthrace, whether or not the intention was to ram and sink Earthrace. Any last second actions by Earthrace are irrelevant. The damage and the violation was already done.

Maritime rules state that the Japanese vessel should have either stopped, slowed down or turned to pass BEHIND Earthrace in order to manage a safe passing. The Japanese violated the rules by steering a course of passing AHEAD of, and very close to Earthrace. The Japanese vessel was required to use its horn, radio or other means to communicate her intentions. Instead, the Japanese used acoustic weapons and water cannons to block communication. And, finally, the Japanese vessel should, by any moral standard in not legally, have assisted in saving the crew of Earthrace and in salvaging her. The Japanese vessels neither responded to Mayday calls, nor provided assistance of any kind.

Sea Shepard and the Japanese trade insults about who is a fault. The news media and Internet crowds voice opinions and interpretations about the incidence, the videos and statements. These rhetoric in all but a few cases ignore the fundamentals. Nautical life consists of rules, conventions, morals and responsibilities that go with the seafaring job at all times.

The fundamental nautical principle is to maintain safety at all times. Whaling pros and cons are not part of those principles. Belittling maritime principles and laws by stating some other issue is more important is simply not acceptable. Nor is the insistence to maintain some obscure cultural right to kill fellow mammals a valid excuse to sink vessels. Those arguments boil down to risking lives to no end except flexing macho muscles.

The bottom line is that maritime law does not permit cat and mouse games as played by both the Japanese and Sea Shepard. Both sides violate not only laws but play games with human as well as mammal lives in extremely dangerous waters. However, the current tragedy was caused by the Japanese overplaying the cat part of the game. May international law prevail. May some sense of responsibility spread to the Southern Ocean and its two deranged opponents.

Earthrace, Pete and Sharyn together with the Earthrace “vortex” will be remembered for past glory. We cheered her during the race against the clock and enormous odds towards final success. Few or any of us identified with the Ady Gil, its Hollywood namesake or with Sea Shepard and its lunatic “Captain”. That part and those people will sink into obscurity.

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