Rogue wave samages Sea Shepherd vessel
Rogue wave samages Sea Shepherd vessel

UPDATE 10am: The anti-whaling vessel Brigitte Bardot is being held together with straps and ropes as the stricken ship lists in heavy seas about 2400km south-west of Fremantle.

The Sea Shepherd flagship Steve Irwin was about 14 hours away at 9.30am and steaming to its rescue.

There are 10 crew members aboard, including an Australian from Queensland, and the ship is taking in water as it navigates ice floes and large swells.

Brigitte Bardot captain Jonathan Miles Renecle told that morale on the ship was good and there was little chance that it would go down before the Steve Irwin arrived.

The high-tech fibreglass vessel was damaged by a nine-metre rogue wave on its port beam about 5.30pm yesterday.

The wave cracked the vessel’s stabilising pontoon leaving it in danger of severing from the main hull.

“We took some serious damage to the stabilising pontoon, we have managed overnight to stabilise the pontoon with some ratchet straps and rope and it is sort of hanging on by a thread,” Capt. Renecle said.

“Everyone is disappointed because we are not going to be able to head down south in pursuit of the Nisshin Maru and the Japanese whaling fleet, however all the crew are safe and crew morale remains high.

“We are just dealing with the situation as it comes.”

Capt. Renecle said the ship was taking in a small amount of water but its bilge pumps were managing to keep pace with the leak.

He said the ship had sent out a distress signal at 6pm but had only heard back from the Steve Irwin.

None of the vessels in the Japanese whaling fleet had responded to the calls for help.

Capt. Renecle said he had spoken to the Australian Maritime Safety Rescue Coordination Centre and had been advised that the Steve Irwin was the nearest vessel.

Steve Irwin Paul Watson captain said his vessel planned to tow the Brigitte Bardot to Fremantle, a voyage that was expected to take up to six days.

The Sea Shepherd’s third vessel, the Bob Barker would remain on the tail of the whaling fleet.

Capt. Watson said he did not trust the Japanese fleet to help and feared if they came to the aid of the Brigitte Bardot they would “run it down”.

“This is disappointing but these are hostile seas and we have always been prepared for situations like this,” Capt. Watson said. “Right now the safety of my crew on the Brigitte
Bardot is our priority and we intend to reach the crew and then do what we can to save our ship.”

Maritime architects will assess the damage to the Brigitte Bardot when it reaches Fremantle and a decision would then be made as to whether it could be repaired in time to rejoin the anti-whaling campaign.

The Steve Irwin is expected to go back to the Southern Ocean to continue its campaign against the whaling fleet once it had delivered the Brigitte Bardot safely to port.

The West Australian

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