The crisis with whaling protest ship Brigitte Bardot has escalated with its damaged pontoon falling off in heavy seas and most of the crew evacuated.

Heavy weather forced the evacuation of seven of the ten crew.

The ship’s portside pontoon has sheared off leaving the vessel listing dangerously in five metre swells and 30 knot winds.

Sea Shepherd leader Paul Watson said the Brigitte Bardot had been weighted on one side to balance it after the loss of the pontoon but was still moving under its own steam.

Sea Shepherd flagship the Steve Irwin is a few hundred metres from the stricken ship and has taken aboard the seven crew.

The ships are on their way to Fremantle after a rogue wave damaged the Brigitte Bardot last week.

Capt Watson said he did not think the Brigitte Bardot would sink but it had become “unstable” and therefore the decision had been made to get all but three of the crew off the ship.

“At 1200 Hours (Perth time) The Steve Irwin and the Brigitte Bardot were at 34 Degrees 38 Minutes South and 112 Degrees 21 Minutes East, a position 200 nautical miles from Fremantle, Western Australia and 120 miles off the coast of Western Australia,” Capt Watson said.

“The port side pontoon on the Brigitte Bardot has become detached after 1000 miles of navigating through rough seas.

“We are taking precautions and the only crew to remain on board will be Brigitte Bardot captain Jonathan Renecle of South Africa, ship’s manager Simon Ager of Canada and First Mate Beck Straussner of the United States. Seven of the crew have been transferred to the Steve Irwin.”

“The Japanese whaling fleet security vessel Shonan Maru #2 continues to trail five miles behind the Steve Irwin and the Brigitte Bardot.”

Both Sea Shepherd vessels are expected to reach Fremantle tomorrow afternoon.

Capt Watson said he did not think the Japanese vessel tailing the ships would assist them in an emergency and so he had not sent out a distress call when the pontoon sheared off the Brigitte Bardot.

The West Australian

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