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Report: Ady Gil & Shonan Maru No. 2 Collision

Ady gill, Shonan
Maru No. 2 collision

  • Audio: [Click here to download] - Opening statement by Maritime NZ Director on the report into the collision between Ady Gill and Shonan Maru No. 2 – 18 November 2010

Documents:
Investigation report: Ady Gil and Shonan Maru No. 2
IMO resolution regarding protest activities on the high seas

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DATE: 18 NOVEMBER 2010

Collision report released EMBARGOED UNTIL 1.00PM (NZDT)

A report released today into a collision between Japanese and New Zealand vessels in the Southern Ocean highlights the need for all masters to exercise restraint and ensure safety remains their highest priority, says Maritime New Zealand (MNZ).

The Director of MNZ, Catherine Taylor, said its report into the collision between the New Zealand-registered whaling protest vessel Ady Gil and the Japanese vessel Shonan Maru No. 2 on 6 January 2010, found no evidence that either vessel master had deliberately caused the collision. However, both were responsible for contributing to and failing to respond to the “close quarters” situation that led to the accident.

The collision, which occurred in international waters about 165 nautical miles north of Antarctica, resulted in 3.5m of the Ady Gil’s bow being sheared off. Some Ady Gil crew members also sustained injuries.

“This accident is a wake-up call to all vessel masters, no matter whether they’re operating in the Southern Ocean or the Hauraki Gulf, that they are ultimately responsible for the safety of their vessels and all on board. This means consistently following internationally recognised safe seafaring practice, which includes maintaining a proper lookout at all times and following established anti-collision regulations.”

Ms Taylor said previous encounters between whaling and protest vessels had contributed to a tense operating environment and probable uncertainty over each others’ intentions, but this was no excuse.

“MNZ reiterates the Government’s and the international maritime community’s calls for all masters to take their responsibilities seriously and exercise appropriate restraint, particularly when operating in an environment as isolated and as unforgiving as the Southern Ocean, where access to any assistance is extremely limited.

“We also echo the International Maritime Organization’s denouncement of any action that puts lives at risk, and reaffirm the responsibility that all vessel masters have to ensure the safety of lives at sea.”

Ms Taylor said preparation of MNZ’s report had involved analysing a significant amount of information, including technical data from both vessels, interviews with witnesses, and 25 hours of video footage. It had been drafted with input from MNZ’s own team of master mariners, and independently reviewed by an external maritime expert. All parties involved had cooperated with MNZ’s investigation, she said.

“This report is the culmination of an extremely robust and thorough investigation, based on the facts and information made available, and we acknowledge all parties who came forward and assisted us.”

Ms Taylor said MNZ’s role was to independently investigate maritime accidents involving New Zealand vessels or vessels within New Zealand territorial waters, with the prime purpose of determining their cause and whether there were any regulatory or safety issues requiring further action. While MNZ had no jurisdiction over foreign vessels operating in international waters, it had submitted its report to the IMO and other countries with responsibility for vessels involved in whaling and protest activities, calling for their attention to its findings.

Media note: Copies of the final report and media pack (including downloadable sound files for broadcast media) will be available from 1.00pm on MNZ’s website: www.maritimenz.govt.nz/adygil

ENDS

Documents:
Investigation report: Ady Gil and Shonan Maru No. 2
IMO resolution regarding protest activities on the high seas

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Frequently asked questions
Maritime New Zealand Investigation report: Ady Gil and Shonan Maru No. 2 – Collision on 6 January 2010
EMBARGOED UNTIL 1.00PM (NZDT) THURSDAY 18 NOVEMBER 2010

1. What was the purpose and scope of MNZ’s investigation?
MNZ’s role is to independently investigate incidents and accidents involving New Zealand vessels and also those involving foreign vessels within New Zealand territorial waters. MNZ has no jurisdiction over foreign vessels operating in international waters.
This particular incident involved a serious collision involving a New Zealand vessel in international waters. MNZ’s role was to undertake a thorough and robust investigation to determine what caused the collision, and whether there were any regulatory or safety issues requiring further action based on the information available. This is what has been done.

2. What has the MNZ report found?
The report finds that the masters of the Shonan Maru No.2 and the Ady Gil were both responsible for contributing to and failing to respond appropriately to the “close quarters” situation that led to the collision. This goes against established international maritime anti-collision rules and expected standards of good seamanship.


3. What does “close quarters” mean?
All vessels, wherever they are operating, are expected to maintain an appropriate safe distance and avoid the risk of collision. This distance will depend on various factors, such as the prevailing weather conditions and the size and manoeuvrability of the vessels involved. The International Collision Regulations require that masters understand their obligations so that their vessels do not end up in a “close quarters” situation, which greatly increases the risk of collision.

4. Did MNZ find any evidence of either vessel master deliberately causing a collision?
There is no evidence to suggest either party deliberately caused the collision. However, earlier events between whaling and protest vessels contributed to a tense operating environment and probable uncertainty over each others’ intentions. That notwithstanding, both masters failed to comply with the International Collision Regulations and to act as prudent seafarers should have.

5. Who, then, was responsible for the collision?
The report finds that both masters of the Shonan Maru No. 2 and the Ady Gil were responsible for either contributing to, or failing to respond to the “close quarters” situation that led to the collision.
The master of the Shonan Maru No. 2 initially had responsibility for keeping his vessel clear of the Ady Gil, due to its position as the overtaking vessel. He had ample opportunity to avoid the close quarters situation that subsequently developed, but failed to do so.
However, once the close quarters situation became apparent, the master of the Ady Gil failed to respond by taking appropriate evasive action – choosing instead to maintain his course and speed, which allowed the close quarters situation to develop into a collision risk.

6. Can legal action be taken against either party?
Taking regulatory action against the master of the New Zealand vessel was not supported by the information available, and MNZ considered such action would have been of limited value in raising genuine awareness or improving public safety.

Additionally, MNZ has no legal jurisdiction over foreign vessels operating in international waters when involved in a collision or incident, just as other countries have no jurisdiction over New Zealand vessels in the same situation.

However, the report highlights the responsibilities that all masters have, regardless of their nationality or the activities they may be involved in, to comply with the International Collision Regulations, and avoid close quarters situation to protect the safety of life at sea.

MNZ’s focus is on sharing the findings from its investigation as widely as possible with the international maritime community, and we will be talking with the flag states involved, as well as with the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

7. Why has the investigation taken so long?
It is common for MNZ investigations to take a significant amount of time, given the need to obtain and thoroughly examine all of the facts and information collected.
In this case, the process has been lengthened due to the need to obtain information from individuals and agencies in several different countries.
All parties relevant to this investigation have cooperated with MNZ, and have provided a significant amount of information, on which our report has been based.


8. Who has been involved in preparing the report?
The report has been prepared by an experienced MNZ maritime investigator, and peer reviewed within MNZ by its own master mariners. It has also been independently reviewed by an external master mariner.


9. What evidence did MNZ consider in completing its report?
This was an extremely thorough and robust investigation that involved examination of a significant amount of information and evidence from all parties involved. This included:
i) eye-witness interviews
ii) analysis of vessel voyage data recordings, GPS and radar plots from both vessels
iii) examination of navigation equipment recovered from the Ady Gil
iv) the review of 25 hours of video footage from four different vantage points, including footage not previously available
v) examination of photographs taken from both vessels.
MNZ also sought interviews with the captain and crew of the Shonan Maru No. 2 as part of its investigation. However, it could not compel Japanese authorities to conduct or facilitate these.
While these interviews would have been useful, they were not considered essential to MNZ’s investigation, as it had already received and analysed a large amount of data from the Japanese vessel.
To ensure a robust and fair report, affected parties were given the opportunity to comment on MNZ’s draft findings and conclusions based on the evidence presented, which is a normal part of the report development process.
MNZ has absolute confidence that the findings of its report reflect a thorough examination of all the information made available to it at the time.

10. What recommendations has MNZ made in its report?
This was a serious incident and highlights the importance of operating safely, particularly in unforgiving environments such as the Southern Ocean.
The Director of MNZ has called on both parties involved in the collision to note the comments and findings contained in its report, and in particular:
a) reminds all masters of the need to comply with the International Collision Regulations, the domestic laws and regulations of their flag state and the practices of good seamanship, irrespective of the activities they may be engaged in
b) calls for a higher standard of care to be taken by all parties who may be involved during demonstrations, protests or confrontations on the high seas
c) denounces actions or inactions that could potentially endanger human life, the marine environment or property during demonstrations, protests or confrontations on the high seas
d) draws the parties’ attention to the IMO’s resolution assuring safety during demonstrations, protests or confrontations on the high seas.
MNZ will also forward its report to maritime authorities in the flag states with responsibility for the Bob Barker and Shonan Maru No. 2 and calls on them to note the recommendations above. The report will be submitted to the IMO for the benefit of the wider maritime community.

11. What does the report mean for ongoing activity in the Southern Ocean?
The report highlights that all vessel masters, regardless of where or what activities they may be involved in, have ultimate responsibility for ensuring the safety of life at sea, and to take appropriate action to avoid a close quarters situation or collision occurring. These obligations are enshrined in the International Collision Regulations adhered to by seafarers the world over.

The Southern Ocean in particular is an isolated and unforgiving location, where the availability of rescue or other assistance is extremely limited. MNZ echoes the international maritime community’s calls for all vessel masters to exercise restraint and denounces any actions or inactions that potentially endanger lives on the high seas.

12. Did MNZ consider the Australian Maritime Safety Authority Report in its investigation?
MNZ considered the AMSA report as part of its investigation, but due to its limited scope, it was not relevant to MNZ’s investigation. The purpose of MNZ’s investigation was to determine what caused the collision involving a New Zealand vessel based on the information available, and whether there were any regulatory or safety issues requiring further action.

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