On Friday, Sea Shepherd filed a legal complaint against the Japanese whaling fleet in the Netherlands, where Mr. Watson's flagship, the Steve Irwin, is registered. "We filed a complaint for criminal prosecution with our prosecutor, requesting the start of an investigation into what we consider to be a crime -- piracy, actually -- committing violence on the high seas," Liesbeth Zegveld, a legal adviser for the group, told Reuters.Is this the same as parking your car on a railroad track in the face of an on-coming train and then arguing that the train is at fault? What if you argue that the train is not there legally because it illegally emits too much pollution or makes too much noise?
But it's far from certain that legal filings will lead anywhere, and legal analysts say a charge of piracy against the Maru, which had been consistently harassed by the smaller Gil, is unlikely to stick.
But the consensus of experienced mariners and sea captains who have e-mailed me is that, while it's the responsibility of all vessels at sea to take every precaution to avoid a collision, and so to a certain extent there is blame to be spread around, that smaller, more maneuverable boats like the Gil are generally expected to have more responsibility for avoiding collisions, since they can turn faster.
"Under the long established international rules of maritime navigation, the smaller, more agile vessel is expected to remain clear of and not impede the operations or navigation of the larger, less nimble vessel," is how one former mariner put it.
The Collision Regulations of the International Maritime Organization, issued in 1972 and still in force, would seem to back up the stance that more of the fault lies with the Gil, since it had spent days deliberately approaching and interfering with the operations of the Maru, by darting across its bow, aiming lasers designed to temporarily blind the Japanese mariners, and seeking to foul its propeller with cables.
Watson's group has long said these sorts of regulations don't apply to their efforts, because they deem the actions of the Japanese whalers to be illegal and say that they are vigilantes enforcing laws that vested authorities refuse to do.
Lasers? Watch this:
Trying to foul Japanese ship screw? See this:
More video available from the Japanese ICR here.
By the way, the skipper of the Gil asserts his boat was trying to avoid collision by turning to starboard at the time of the collision. Check the video and see if you detect any alteration in the wake of the boat: