Sea Shepherd’s newest vessel will make its mission, to end illegal fishing off Antarctica, a little easier. The marine conservation organization’s brand new boat, to be christened as the Ocean Warrior, will launch this September and it should terrify whales and pelagic criminals of all stripes.
“This new ship is a game changer,” Adam Burling with Sea Shepherd Australia tells Inverse. “It opens up a whole new range of tactics for Sea Shepherd.”
The thing about stopping illegal fishing vessels? You have to find them first. Antarctica’s Southern Ocean covers a massive expanse of water. Its size, along with harsh conditions, makes enforcing international fishing regulations a particularly difficult endeavor. For decades, poachers have taken advantage of that fact. In a sense, they didn’t need to devise elaborate ways to do wrong. They just needed to ignore the law.
The Ocean Warrior will make that hard. By far the fastest ship in the Sea Shepherd fleet, the Warrior will find poachers faster and be able to stay on their tails. Ship-building company Damen is currently building the custom ship, based off an existing design, in a shipyard in Turkey. The 175-foot vessel will reach speeds of 30 knots.
It’s the first time in Sea Shepherd’s nearly 40-year history that the organization has been able to purchase a brand new ship, says Burling. The newest ship currently in the fleet, the Sam Simon, was built in 1993. The Ocean Warrior was mostly paid for by a donation of 8.3 million Euros from the Dutch Postcode Lottery.
The Ocean Warrior will give Sea Shepherd a big leg up in fighting Japanese whalers, Burling said. “They’re a state-of-the-art maritime nation. We’re up against one of the largest economies on the planet, and they’re also very good shipbuilders.” The Japanese harpoon ships used in the annual whaling campaign are very fast, and Sea Shepherd’s vessels can’t keep up with them. In past years, Sea Shepherd has gotten around this problem by sticking with the larger factory ship, the Nisshin Maru, and physically getting between the harpoon ships and the factory ship so that dead whales can’t be moved between them. The Ocean Warrior will change that, allowing Sea Shepherd to seek out the harpoon ships and, potentially, prevent the whales from dying in the first place.
The new ship will have the capability to launch helicopters and smaller boats from its deck, and is built to withstand harsh Antarctic conditions. After the Ocean Warrior is constructed, it will tour the Netherlands and Australia and then set off on its first mission. The details of that mission will be announced in September.