Beware of turning Japanese
Saturday January 14th 2006, 9:28 am

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.

The New Zealand Herald reports:

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.


20 Comments so far
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Thanks for taking the time to review the videos. Well said.

Because I am a stickler for these things though, I have to point out that while the illustration is useful for showing the effect of the Nisshin Maru’s rudder action, it is incorrect in one detail. The NM did not pass around the stern of the Arctic Sunrise. At the beginning it was tied up along the FAR side of the third ship you see in the video (the cargo/tanker they were loading whale meat onto for some hours). It turned to port all the way around the stern of that ship to line up on the Sunrise.

(edited image. -weez)

Comment by Andrew - on board the Esperanza 01.15.06 @ 2:43 am

Andrew, thanks very much for stopping in! You would have to be my first shipborne commenter. I’ll look at the videos again and correct the drawing.

For those mgk readers unfamiliar with the Esperanza, it is the largest vessel operated by Greenpeace.

Esperanza is presently in the Southern Ocean along with Arctic Sunrise, chasing the Japanese Nissui company’s whaling fleet and interfering with the needless killing of endangered whale species.

Comment by weezil 01.15.06 @ 6:24 am

The AS captain may have reversed his engines just before impact, but it is not correct to say that the AS was “not moving forward”. Clearly, it was still moving forward when it moved forward into the NM. In the Japanese video, you can indeed see white water breaking around the bow of the AS before it hits the NM.

Comment by skep 01.16.06 @ 3:24 pm

… and, in the Greenpeace video, the AS captain says he maintained his course and speed since he had the right of way. He doesn’t say anything about reversing or trying to avoid a collision.

Comment by skep 01.16.06 @ 3:27 pm

Sky News Australia ran the Japanese video several times, but I did not have my digital vid recorder handy at those instants. I’m looking for a copy elsewhere on the net. Links anyone?

After having seen the Japanese video several times, in which I noted the lack of bow wake from Sunrise, I was moved to go write this post about it. That video was the sole genesis for my commentary on this matter. When I find a copy, I’ll mirror it on mgk.

You will also note from the Greenpeace video that the prow of Sunrise hit the side of Nisshin Maru twice as Nisshin Maru passed.

So, did the 949 tonne Arctic Sunrise BOUNCE?


Did the massive Arctic Sunrise suddenly reverse and then ‘ram’ Nisshin Maru again, 10 seconds later?


Arctic Sunrise was going full astern. Nisshin Maru was steered hard to port to swing her stern starboard, into the prow of Arctic Sunrise. Sunrise was reversing on the first contact and managed to outrun the swing of Nisshin Maru’s stern, until Nisshin Maru had moved forward another 40-50m. Nisshin Maru’s tail caught up and struck Sunrise a second time.

If you would bother to look at the Greenpeace video- and it is obvious you have not, else you’d know about the Sunrise’s skipper stating he was on “full astern” when it appeared that Nisshin Maru was going to sideswipe him. This statement appears at 3:00 into this Greenpeace video.

If this had been a basketball game, Nisshin Maru would have copped a technical foul for faking an injury and falling face first with no provocation. The claim that the six-times-smaller Arctic Sunrise would have any effect by ramming Nisshin Maru is ludicrous. The Japanese whaling agency’s claims to the contrary are pure farce, as is their claim that it is necessary to kill thousands of whales for ‘research.’

You want fries with your whaleburger, skep?

Comment by weezil 01.16.06 @ 3:38 pm

Here is the Japanese video

The Greenpeace video I saw is here. The skipper says absolutely nothing about being full astern.

Comment by skep 01.16.06 @ 4:19 pm

The claim that the six-times-smaller Arctic Sunrise would have any effect by ramming Nisshin Maru is ludicrous.

You are obviously unfamiliar with the PR value of attacking a much larger opponent. Even if such attacks are futile, they make the small guy look like he’s got moxie and spunk.

Comment by skep 01.16.06 @ 4:25 pm

I saw the Greenpeace video via the link on this page. It’s unclear why it cuts off the captain’s words at the end that you can see if you get the video from Greenpeace’s site.

Comment by skep 01.16.06 @ 5:00 pm

skep wrote: “…they make the small guy look like heís got moxie and spunk.”

Greenpeace don’t need to trash their vessels to prove that they have moxie and spunk!

skep, is there any particular significance in your skepticism due to the fact that you’re located in Tokyo?

WordPress sent me this little tidbit when you posted:

Author : skep
IP: 220.106.12.###

You wouldn’t happen to work for Nissui or the Japan Whaling Association, would you?

I’ll try to act very surprised at your skepticism.

So, will that whaleburger be rare or well done?

Comment by weezil 01.16.06 @ 5:39 pm

Oooh, I stand in awe of your Internet sleuthing skills. But like the vast majority of people in Japan, I don’t have anything to do with commercial whaling.

Comment by skep 01.16.06 @ 5:47 pm

Notification of the admin of new comments, along with a reverse DNS lookup, is a default feature in WordPress 1.5.x. It’s a not terribly sleuthy thing.

Pardon me while I remain.. err… skeptical of your claim of lack of association with the whaling industry.

Comment by weezil 01.16.06 @ 5:52 pm

Itís a not terribly sleuthy thing.

Yeah, I was being sarcastic.

If it helps you understand where I’m coming from, I am more against radical enviros than I am for whaling.

Comment by skep 01.16.06 @ 5:57 pm

Well, you won’t find any ‘radical enviros’ here.

If you want to pick on anyone, have a go at the Sea Shepherds. They DID sidewsipe Oriental Bluebird with their ship Farley Mowat- and proudly admit such.

The skipper of Nisshin Maru took a cheap dive for the benefit of the referee of public opinion… trouble is, the ref ain’t buyin’ it.

Comment by weezil 01.16.06 @ 6:04 pm

By the way, your comments information says “e-mail address never displayed”, and I posted subject to that policy. I would appreciate if you could please remove my email address and IP address from your earlier comment. Thanks.

Comment by skep 01.16.06 @ 6:17 pm

Oh, I see you removed the email address. Could you please take down my IP address, too? Thanks.

(edit: done. -weez)

Comment by skep 01.16.06 @ 6:19 pm

skep, thanks very much for the link to the Institute of Whaleburger Research video. This video proves conclusively that Arctic Sunrise was not at fault.

The features indicative of the motion of Sunrise relative to Nisshin Maru which I previously I cited are shown in this clip. Approximately 3 seconds before the first impact, Sunrise ceases forward motion. The water around the bow goes still. The camera pans momentarily toward the stern of Sunrise a second prior to impact and reveals the telltale bubbles from propeller cavitation appearing from beneath the rear third of Sunrise’s hull. This indicates Sunrise is running full astern.

The lack of a bow wake from Nisshin Maru, despite its forward motion, indicates the ship is being yawed- moving to starboard in relation to its axis of forward motion. The Nisshin Maru skipper is inducing the yaw motion by steering hard to port and throttling up.

Congrats, you’ve just fully busted the skipper of the Nisshin Maru.

Comment by weezil 01.16.06 @ 6:24 pm

If the AS skipper ended up having a 3-second margin of error, and ended up close enough that he could get yawed by the NM, maybe he was cutting it too close? Especially given that the NM was blaring warnings the whole time, threatening to block the AS?

If the AS skipper really wanted to avoid a collision, he could have changed course sooner, instead of insisting on his “right of way”. His actions are those of a man who was playing chicken and lost, not those of a man who didn’t want to be hit.

Bottom line: If the AS hadn’t been sailing closer and closer to the Japanese vessels, this crash would not have happened. It’s Greenpeace who goes looking for confrontations with Japanese whalers, not the other way around.

Comment by skep 01.16.06 @ 6:47 pm

Bottom line..? The skipper of the Nisshin Maru failed to give way to a ship approaching from his right. He deliberately lined up Sunrise for a collision and used the size of his vessel to bully his way through… Just like the Japan Whaling Commission is bullying their whaleburger “research” on the rest of the world.

If Greenpeace didn’t illuminate corporate abuses of natural resources that belong to all, corporations would do so with impunity- and in some cases do so despite said illumination. It’s not like I can hop in my car and go see what’s going on in the Southern Ocean on my own. I appreciate Greenpeace being on the scene, even if just with cameras.

Moreover, there’s no demonstrable need to kill whales, whether they are endangered species or not! The claim of slaughtering more than 1000 whales for ‘research’ is beyond the pale. This deceit alone, save the lies about Greenpeace ramming their craft, is baldfaced and breathtaking in its audacity.

Wouldn’t it be so much more conveeeeeeenient if those nasty noisy hippies with their cameras and boats would just go away. Such bad, bad PR.

No matter which way you slice it, it’s still a whaleburger- and it’s not under a microscope. That’s the REAL bad PR.

Comment by weezil 01.16.06 @ 7:28 pm

[…] Went out to hear some Greenpeace activists who were on the recent Antarctic anti-whaling campaign speak at the National Maritime Museum this evening. Fascinating. Incredibly tough, dedicated people. More about them later. […]

Pingback by mgk: Machine Gun Keyboard 02.08.06 @ 11:52 pm

[…] The addition of the massive and speedy Esperanza to the Greenpeace fleet allowed activists to keep up with and seriously interfere with the whale hunt, conducted under the guise of scientific research. In previous years, the Japanese whale hunter ships were able to outrun the Greenpeace vessels. This year, the whale hunters were so stymied by the speed of the activists that they twice rammed large Greenpeace vessels and tried several times to sink several of the smaller inflatable craft with firehoses. MV Esperanza got a scratched paint job when sideswiped by the hunter/killer ship Kyo Maru and Arctic Sunrise was famously set up for a collision by the processor/freezer vessel Nisshin Maru. […]

Pingback by mgk: Machine Gun Keyboard 02.10.06 @ 10:58 am

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