Thursday, December 20, 2007

Australia to tag Japanese whalers in Southern Ocean

Australia will deploy a ship fitted with machine guns to monitor Japanese whalers in the Southern Ocean, a report said Tuesday. Citing unnamed sources, the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said Australia would use the Oceanic Viking, which has a reinforced hull to cut through ice, to spy on the Japanese whalers.The ship would be fitted with photographic and video equipment to record images which would be used in any international court action against the Japanese, it said.The ship is owned by a Melbourne-based subsidiary of the UK's P&O cruise ship company.Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has refused to specify how Australia plans to monitor the Japanese fleet which intends to kill more than 1,000 whales, including humpbacks, saying he will announce details later this week."We haven't ruled out the use of Australian assets for the purposes of collecting photographic evidence in support of a possible future international legal case against the Japanese on whaling," he said on Monday.Australian Customs officials said the Oceanic Viking, which is not a cruise ship, is already a full-time vessel that it has contracted to conduct armed patrols of the Southern Ocean."The 105-metre (346-foot) Oceanic Viking is fitted with two deck mounted 0.50 calibre machine guns," Customs said on its website.The vessel also carries a full civilian crew and steaming party capable of sailing any apprehended vessel, as well as a boarding party of specialist Customs officers armed with handguns."As part of the government's anti-illegal fishing strategy in Australia's northern waters, Oceanic Viking is also used for two northern patrols each year," Customs said.

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