Whaling ship threatens Antarctica oil spill

Fears of an oil spill in the pristine Antarctic wilderness mounted this week as a Japanese whaling ship stranded in the Southern Ocean following an accident prepared to move away from the area using its own motors.

The Nisshin Maru has been marooned since last Thursday when a crew member was killed by a fire. Officials have now said it may leave the area within days as the engine and radar systems were now working.

Environmental group Greenpeace expressed concerns over possible chemical oil spills into a pristine environment that is home to a large colony of penguins. Greenpeace offered to tow the vessel away but Japan has decided to opt for repairing the vessel and letting it leave the area on its own.

Japanese Fisheries Agency official Hideki Moronuki said: “We still need to check other systems, but the ship could move under its own power in a couple of days.

“We are grateful to Greenpeace for their offers of help, but we don’t need it,” he said.

Greenpeace has expressed concerns over the 1000 tonnes of oil on board the Nisshin Maru, which could touch the Adelie penguin breeding ground, the world’s largest, 177 km (110 miles) from where the ship is stranded.

Greenpeace expedition leader Karli Thomas said: “If we don’t get the ship out of here as soon as possible, we could see a slow-motion disaster unfolding.”

“We feel this has been a case where the human-related issues and environmental issues have been put behind political concerns,” she said.

Goska Romanowicz

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