The environmental group Sea Shepherd negligently dumped up to 500 litres of diesel into the Trinity Inlet in Cairns, Australia, because the crew didn’t have the correct manual for the boat they were operating, it has emerged.
The climate website NoTricksZone has reported the incident, which happened earlier this year but was not widely publicised at the time. Bob Brown, chairman of the Australian arm of the global anti-whaling group, pleaded guilty in Cairns Magistrates Courts of a marine pollution offence, although charges against the crew member who had dumped the fuel were dropped.
According to the Cairns Post, Sea Shepherd Australia had bought the boat one week prior to the incident, and had not gotten the Japanese instruction manual or signage translated. Consequently, the ship’s chief engineer had had to figure out the ships systems “by his own devices”. The crew were also aware that the “low level” switch which needed to be activated was faulty, but had not repaired it before using the vessel.
The ship was moored in Cairns Port when crew member Gabor Nosty failed to manually set the switch during a fuel transfer despite being aware that it was faulty, causing the diesel to spill into the bay during the transfer. The spill had to be brought to the crew’s attention by a passer-by.
Magistrate Kevin Preistly called the amount spilled “not insignificant”, and questioned why a crew member, rather than the chief engineer, was performing the fuel transfer. Prosecutors called for a penalty of between AUS$15,000 and AUS$30,000 to be imposed. Charges against Mr Nosty were dropped.
Commenting on the case, Pierre Gosselin, author of NoTricksZone said: “what really strikes me is that the environmental organization comes in with its lawyers and fights tooth and nail in claiming that they really acted responsibly and that the accident was not entirely their fault. The excuses they presented are truly sad and pathetic and show an amazing ignorance when it comes to industrial safety regulation and management.
“Using a piece of equipment that you do not understand is gross negligence. Sea Shepard’s motto here obviously was: Let’s just get this thing running (and safety be damned!)
“All the crew members came from an advanced technological country. It’s amazing how activists are always calling for more stringent safety regulations and environmental protection laws, yet they themselves can’t even adhere to the most rudimentary and obvious safety rules.”
Sea Shepherd has gained a degree of notoriety. Over its 40 year history there have been numerous allegations of ships being rammed and scuttled by Sea Shepherd activists around the world, some resulting in convictions. Founder Paul Watson was a co-founder of Greenpeace but was ejected by that organisation in 1977 for being “possessed by too powerful a drive, too unrelenting a desire to push himself front and centre”, according to Greenpeace. Others have said that it was his propensity for violent action that got him removed.
Watson has called the human race a “virus”, which is less valuable than earthworms, and has often advocated violence when pursuing environmental causes. In 2002, he told an animal rights convention “There’s nothing wrong with being a terrorist as long as you win”, adding “the fact is that we live in an extremely violent culture and we all justify violence if it’s for what we believe in”.
In 1997 he was jailed in the Netherlands for scuttling a vessel off Norway, and in 2002 an arrest warrant was issued by Costa Rica for a charge of attempted murder after he had an “altercation” with a local fishing vessel. That warrant led to his arrest in Germany in 2011, but he jumped bail and fled the country before he could face extradition.
In February of this year, Anthony Bergin, an honorary fellow of the Antarctic Climate and Ecosystems Cooperative Research Centre called on Australia’s Government to ban Sea Shepherd vessels from Australian ports on the grounds that they were a danger to human life during the whaling season.
“High-seas confrontations are common between Sea Shepherd and the Japanese,” he wrote. “The manoeuvres of Sea Shepherd are potentially disastrous. They’re risking causing serious injury or loss of life by ignoring the basic maritime rules of the road: it’s incumbent on masters of vessels to avoid placing their ship in a dangerous situation in relation to other vessels.
“Apart from the human safety aspect, the group risks directly contributing to a major fuel spill if a ship down south was damaged or sunk. The remoteness of the area where these operations are taking place (in New Zealand’s search and rescue area) makes rescue or clean-up operations difficult and costly.
The best way to stop the Sea Shepherd activities, which even Greenpeace says are dangerous, is for the Abbott Government to ban the entry of its vessels into Australian ports.”