Thursday, November 21, 2013

Maritime Tribunal Verdict on Arctic Sunrise Due as GreenPeace Russian Controversy Continues

All 'Hooligans' Now Freed on Bail
Shipping News Feature

RUSSIA – WORLDWIDE – With all the GreenPeace activists charged with ‘aggravated hooliganism’ after protesting against Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya oil platform now released on bail, some details of the equipment the crew of the Arctic Sunrise had available have come to light. Despite the Russian Coastguard reportedly jamming the GreenPeace vessel’s electronics when she was known to be approaching the rig, the environmental organisation, and the Netherlands Shipping Inspectorate, were both able to stay in touch with the ship up until the moment she was detained.

The Arctic Sunrise is believed to have switched off much of her electronics equipment before her detention in an attempt to approach the platform where activists scaled the rig despite having water cannons fired at them. Certainly the vessel’s Inmarsat communications system was inoperable but the EMA Group has said that both GreenPeace and the flag state were able to pinpoint her position using EMA’s BlueTraker's built-in iridium satellite modem which always operates on the ship which has often travelled in the freezing conditions of the Arctic since GreenPeace first chartered her in 1995.

Capable of operating in temperatures down to -50ºC, EMA’s BlueTraker LRIT (Long Range Identification and Tracking) terminal has been engineered to resist a cold start in extreme environments and the effects of Arctic winds on exposed electronic equipment. A spokesman for Speedcast Maritime, which supplied the terminal to Greenpeace said:

"Greenpeace required a polar rated LRIT terminal for their ship The Arctic Sunrise and our supplier EMA provides the only Arctic certified terminal with pole to pole coverage via an Iridium modem incorporated into their BlueTraker LRIT."

The arrest of the ship occurred after she had left the safety zone around the rig and although the protesters have all now been freed on bail, having had the original accusations of piracy rescinded, it is not known if they will be allowed to leave the country. The entire matter is under discussion in the maritime Court in Hamburg, the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) as the Netherlands authorities petition for the release of vessel and crew under the 'flag state' rights and duties outlined in the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), with a judgement due tomorrow.

GreenPeace vessels are of course no strangers to controversy. The Arctic Sunrise was rammed by a Japanese whaler in 1999 and has deliberately sailed into the path of a US missile, whilst her current captain, freed this week on bail, skippered the Rainbow Warrior in New Zealand when French government agents of the Direction Générale de la Sécurité Extérieure planted two bombs on board, the second of which killed crewman and photographer Fernando Pereira when he went aboard to recover equipment after the first explosion.

Photo: The Arctic Sunrise entering the Northern Sea Route courtesy GreenPeace.