Friday, 7 October 2016

Ocean warriors unveil new high-speed ship against Japan whalers




October 2, 2016 by Sophie Mignon 

With its distinctive pirate-like flag flying from the mast, the sleek, high-speed concrete grey Ocean Warrior is the latest weapon in a bitter war between marine conservationists and Japan's whaling fleet. 

"The one thing that we were missing in our fleet was a vessel with speed and endurance," said Alex Cornelissen, chief executive of Sea Shepherd Global.

"With the Ocean Warrior, we have a ship that can outmatch any poaching vessel on the high seas," said Cornelissen, also the captain, giving AFP a tour of the ship before its departure from the Netherlands this weekend bound for Australia.

"We are now able to follow them anywhere they go and even run away if they become too aggressive."

Bought at a cost of 8.3 million euros ($9.3 million) funded by public lotteries in Britain, The Netherlands and Sweden, Sea Shepherd Global is counting on the vessel in its upcoming battle to save the whales in the icy waters of the Southern Ocean.

The new vessel, designed by a Dutch shipbuilder, took 18 months to build. Stretching some 54 metres (yards), it is a state-of-the-art ship, equipped with hybrid propulsion to extend its range, four powerful engines and a helicopter landing pad.

But it also has a secret weapon—on the bridge a red cannon can eject a powerful plume of water to obstruct the views of the whalers, or block them from boarding.

For almost four decades, Sea Shepherd has fought to "defend, conserve and protect" marine life in the vast expanses of the planet's oceans.

Masquerading as science
And for 30 years they have been playing cat-and-mouse on the high seas with determined and at times ruthless whaling fleets.

"The minute you actually find them, you get very excited and the whole crew is excited because that's what you came down here for," said Cornelissen, sitting at the controls which resembles the helm of a spaceship.

"And then you just go into this high energy mode. You don't get tired anymore. You can stay up for 24 hours without interruption," he added.

"All the sacrifices you made to be down in the Antarctic, you know, missing Christmas, missing your family, it's all become worth it when you find the whalers."

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