image: Bill Leak for The Australian
Crikey prematurely ejaculated yesterday with Christian Kerr’s errant analysis of the collision of the Japanese whaling craft Nisshin Maru with the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise.
Australian maritime law expert Dr Eric Wilson, of Monash University, Melbourne, said the Arctic Sunrise was set up for the collision by the clever skipper of the Nisshin Maru. "By executing a 360-degree turn at exactly the moment he did, he created a situation where the Greenpeace vessel could not but strike the Japanese vessel.
Japan’s Institute of Cetacean Research director-general Hiroshi Hatanaka said video taken from the Nisshin Maru showed the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise could have avoided the collision on Sunday but instead turned hard to port.
"The skipper turned the boat into the path of the Nisshin Maru and rammed us at our weakest point," he said. "It was a deliberate action to get media coverage."
However, Australian maritime law expert Dr Eric Wilson, of Monash University, Melbourne, said the Arctic Sunrise was set up for the collision by the clever skipper of the Nisshin Maru. "By executing a 360-degree turn at exactly the moment he did, he created a situation where the Greenpeace vessel could not but strike the Japanese vessel.
"But at the same time, it was Greenpeace who rammed the Nisshin Maru and not the Nisshin Maru which rammed the Greenpeace vessel.
"The skipper artificially set up the obstacle so it was the Greenpeace vessel which physically collided with the Nisshin Maru … physically, materially, Greenpeace executed the ramming action."
To which Crikey’s Kerr commented:
Is that really the argument, though? Surely the issue here is whether the initial claim that the Japanese vessel was rammed is correct.
Perhaps Greenpeace have a theory of core and non-core rammings.
Analysing any vehicular accident is difficult after the fact, but Kerr infers that Arctic Sunrise is at fault, despite a manoevre on the part of the skipper of Nisshin Maru which was deliberately calculated to cause a collision with Arctic Sunrise. This is an oversimplified analysis. There mere fact that the bow of Arctic Sunrise contacted the port side of Nisshin Maru may, in a very technical sense, indicate fault on the part of the Arctic Sunrise skipper, but it was a quite deliberate act of the skipper of Nisshin Maru which caused the collision.
Kerr apparently doesn’t understand that ships are not cars. Since the rudder and propeller are at the rear end of craft like Arctic Sunrise and Nisshin Maru, they steer very much like a heavily loaded shopping trolley with casters on all four corners. When steered sharply and pushed by propeller drive from the stern as they are, the rear end of the craft swings wide, causing a sideways motion.
Nisshin Maru circled around Arctic Sunrise until Maru was directly in the path of Sunrise. When Nisshin Maru was directly in front of Arctic Sunrise, the skipper of Nisshin Maru then turned his rudder hard to port and throttled up, forcing the stern of Nisshin Maru to swing to starboard, toward Arctic Sunrise, causing the collision of the bow of Arctic Sunrise with the starboard side of Nisshin Maru.
Nisshin Maru swung its stern to starboard to force a collision
If you look at video of the collision, particularly that shot by the Japanese whalers aboard Nisshin Maru, you will see that Sunrise had no bow wake immediately before the collision, indicating Sunrise had no forward motion. It’s hard to say that Arctic Sunrise rammed Nisshin Maru if Arctic Sunrise was not moving forward. There is also cavitation and turbulence from Arctic Sunrise’s propeller visible from beneath the stern of the craft, indicating that Sunrise was reversing on full throttle to avoid a collision.
Hatanaka was correct in citing that the collision was deliberately calculated to draw media coverage. However, Hatanaka failed to indicate that it was the Japanese whaling craft’s skipper who was looking for the sympathetic ink. If this was not a coldly calculated media stunt crafted by the whalers, why was there a video cameraman placed optimally on the stern deck of the Maru to catch an image of the Sunrise’s bow contacting the starboard side of Maru just before the crash? Too bad the cameraman didn’t frame the shot a little higher to avoid catching the incriminating lack of bow wake from the Sunrise. The Japanese "Cetacean Research" body can find sympathy between shit and syphilis in the OED.
Now, can we get some political will from the Australian Government to dispatch the Navy to protect our fishing areas and the endangered species within them?
Considering John Howard desperately wants free trade agreements with Asian nations and hates environmentalists with a purple passion, adding to the conflict by calling in the Navy is not bloody likely.
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