Captain Peter Bethune has boarded the Shonan Maru No 2 to make a citizen's arrest of the captain of the vessel. Peter Bethune's ship, the New Zealand registered high speed trimaran the Ady Gil owned by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Foundation, was sunk by the Japanese whaling ship the Shonan Maru 2 on January 6 after it was purposefully rammed endangering the lives of the six crew.
In the cover of darkness Peter Bethune left the Sea Shepherd flagship, the Steve Irwin on a jet ski with another Sea Shepherd volunteer. About 6.30 am he clambered aboard the vessel that had destroyed his own ship, getting around the anti-boarding spikes and nets.
As the Captain of the Ady Gil, Peter Bethune has an invoice for $3million which he will present to the skipper of the Shonan Maru 2.
In a covering letter Bethune states: "I am here to arrest you. I am requesting that you transfer now to the Steve Irwin, where we will take you into custody, and we will deliver you to the Maritime Safety Authority and the New Zealand Police once we reach Wellington (New Zealand)."
"If you refuse to be arrested, then I am requesting that you deliver me to Wellington (New Zealand). Having sunk my vessel, and with our issuing of a mayday call, you have an obligation under maritime law to provide me with safe passage back to land."
"I will refuse to be handed over to any Sea Shepherd vessel. I will also refuse to be handed over to any New Zealand or Australian Coastguard, Customs or Naval vessel. I will only leave the Shonan Maru when you transfer with me to the Steve Irwin, or when we arrive on land, be it New Zealand or Australia."
"I am enclosing an invoice for US$3m, representing the new replacement cost of the Ady Gil. You are responsible for the collision and as such, you are also responsible for paying for its replacement."
"I commit to you that while I am on your vessel, that I will not impede or disrupt your crew and their activities."
The invoice, dated 14 February 2010, says "If payment is not forthcoming within four weeks of receiving this document, we will be proceeding with criminal charges in Japan against your company. We will be seeking punitive damages, in addition to the full replacement cost of the Ady Gil. Further to this, we will be laying criminal charges against the Captain of the Shonan Maru #2."
Peter Bethune concludes his open letter with a plea : "I am just an ordinary man with a wife and two kids, who is prepared to make a stand against something that I believe is wrong. That is why I came to Antarctica to try and stop you, and that is why I am here on your vessel today."
"This was an impossible mission,” said Captain Paul Watson. “Captain Bethune boarded a Japanese whaling fleet security ship at high speed in total darkness, breached the spikes and anti-boarding nets and is presently onboard and the Japanese crew are still not aware that he is there. He is there to demand justice for the sinking of his ship.”," he said.
"The first attempt he actually fell in the water and the jet ski went back and retrieved him. (The crew) still didn't notice," Captain Watson told AAP. "It was extremely dangerous. He was boarding a ship going at 15 knots in total darkness in Southern Ocean waters, which are extremely frigid."
According to the Sea Shepherd media release, "At 0800 Hours, once the sun had risen, Captain Bethune calmly knocked on the bridge wing door, entered the wheelhouse, and presented himself to the Captain of Shonan Maru 2 where he informed the skipper that he was under arrest for the sinking of the Sea Shepherd ship Ady Gil on January 6th, 2010."
The Institute for Cetecean Research (ICR) have replied in a media release that this is a publicity stunt similar to the boarding two years ago by Sea Shepherd volunteers Giles Lane and Benjamin Potts, and that the skipper of the former Ady Gil, Mr Peter Bethune, had illegally boarded the Shonan Maru No.2.
Donald Rothwell, a professor of international and maritime law at the Australian National University, said in an AP report that Bethune's boarding was not illegal under international law unless he planned to do harm to the crew or imperil the safety of the Shonan Maru 2. The act of boarding and making a demand or presenting a letter and a bill did not constitute terrorism or piracy.
Senator Bob Brown, leader of the Australian Greens, said Peter Bethune had shown extraordinary courage in boarding the Japanese whaling ship. "Captain Peter Bethune, with his five crew, was nearly killed when the Ady Gil was rammed and sunk by the Shonan Maru 2. He has now boarded the Shonan Maru 2 itself to attempt a citizen's arrest of its captain and present a $3 million bill for the destroyed ship.
Bob Brown called on the Rudd government "to insist Captain Bethune is treated responsibly and brought back to Australia or New Zealand as soon as feasible," he said in a media release.
In an earlier confrontation for 5 hours on February 12, the ICR accused Sea Shepherd of injuring three crew members with butyric acid. Sea Shepherd however produced video footage showing a team of three crew members operating two backpack canisters with nozzles spraying a substance towards Sea Shepherd volunteers in an inflatable. Sea Shepherd alledged the substance to be capsicum spray. Due to the wind, the Japanese crew members succeeded in dousing themselves with their own chemical irritant.
On Valentine's Day, Sea Shepherd added some red paint blobs to the research sign on the side of the Nisshin Maru.
The Sea Shepherd ships Steve Irwin and Bob Barker continue to pursue the Japanese whaling factory ship Nisshin Maru eastward across the Southern Ocean. The ships are presently south of Australia’s Heard Island. No whaling has ocurred for ten days, since the Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barker found and re-engaged the Japanese whaling factory ship, the Nisshin Maru on February 6.
Photo: Peter Bethune captaining the Ady Gil in the final moments before it was rammed cutting the vessel in two.