The Winter Bay, the second-rate vessel chartered by Icelandic whaler, Kristjan Loftsson, to move an estimated 1,700 tonnes of fin whale meat to Japan, is on the move again! The vessel has been moored in Tromso since June 11th. Recent reports that the Winter Bay, which has only basic ice strengthening, would be stuck there maybe until late August/early September when ice conditions might be sufficiently favourable to allow her onward journey through the Northeast Passage, have clearly proved groundless or were simply red herrings: anything is possible with Loftsson.
So what can be done? We’ve been working alongside other like-minded NGOs to explore every avenue to get the Winter Bay and her cargo and paperwork inspected, with the aim of forcing her to return to Iceland. The Norwegian authorities have had every opportunity to inspect the vessel during her time at Tromso, but despite strong requests, have failed to do so.
We’ve also been working with global campaigning community, Avaaz, to target St Kitts and Nevis, the small Caribbean island nation that provides a ‘flag of convenience’ to the Winter Bay. Such is her history (and that of her parent company, Aquaships) that most countries would not touch her with the proverbial bargepole, as we previously reported.
A flag state, however, has certain important responsibilities with regard to a vessel’s seaworthiness and the safety of her crew and Avaaz recently mounted a global petition urging St Kitts and Nevis to remove their flag from the vessel (and also to stop supporting Japan on whaling issues). The petition has over a million signatures – please sign and circulate if you haven’t already done so! The Northeast Passage is considered to be under Russian ownership, however, requests to Russia to refuse the Winter Bay permission to take that route have also fallen on deaf ears.
We will be tracking the Winter Bay as she moves towards the Northeast Passage: you can be sure that we will continue to fight to see this shipment returned to Iceland.