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Whaling vessel on fire

February 15, 2007 - TheAge.com.au

Advertisement The key vessel of the Japanese whaling fleet, the factory ship Nisshin Maru, is on fire and has been evacuated in Antarctica.

The 8,000 tonne Nisshin Maru issued a distress call around 4 am eastern Australian summer time after the fire broke out below decks, according to the search and rescue co-ordination centre at Maritime New Zealand.

Of the 162 people on board, 120 were evacuated onto three other ships in the Japanese fleet, and the remainder had stayed aboard to fight the fire, Maritime New Zealand's spokesman, Lindsay Sturt , told theage.com.au.

"It's suspected the fire is in the engine room of the ship, but that is not certain yet," Mr Sturt said. "It doesn't appear that the vessel is in danger of sinking, and we have no report of injuries. The fire is still going."

Mr Sturt could not confirm a report of an explosion ahead of the fire,
and he said its cause was not known.

"There is no indication of how it originated," he said.

He said the crew who remained on board would likely attempt to seal off the area where the fire was, and douse it with extinguishing gases.

The ship is believed to be in the Ross Sea, where the weather conditions are good, with no swell and light winds.

Greenpeace's Esperanza, which had been searching for the whaling fleet, answered the mayday call, but was stood down by Maritime New Zealand in favour of closer ships.

The Sea Shepherd ships, Robert Hunter and Farley Mowat, reported on Thursday that they were heading for Australia, from a position that put them several days steaming away from the Ross Sea.

It was the third distress call in a week from the Antarctic, after Sea Shepherd had to recover two crew from a disabled dinghy, and the whale spotting ship Kaiko Maru called for help after it was involved in a collision with the Robert Hunter.

See next article:  Stricken oil-laden whaling ship drifting towards penguin breeding ground

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