Sea Shepherds in Bureaucratland - The Farley Mowat Struggles with the Slime of Red Tape in Cape Town

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society ship Farley Mowat continues to be detained in South Africa.

The crew of the Farley Mowat report that they have indeed fallen down the rabbit hole into Bureaucratland.

It is not entirely unexpected. Captain Paul Watson knows harassment when he sees it. He has had plenty of experience over the last three decades and he has noticed that bureaucratic harassment always seems to surface in the wake of any controversial action to protect our oceans and marine life. And so he expected some sort of bureaucratic mischief in Cape Town.

After all, the Japanese deceivers in Tokyo have been doing their best to spin their illegal activities into some sort of victimized tradition under attack by racist inspired eco-terrorists. According to them, the whalers are the victims, and not the whales, and anyone defending the whales is the violent aggressor.

Towards this end, the Japanese government enlisted the support of the United States Naval Intelligence Department to use satellite surveillance to track Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd ships as suspected pirates. And the Americans agreed.

Towards this end, Japan threatened Australia and New Zealand with trade issues unless they agreed to not do anything more than talk about the issue of illegal whaling. And the Aussies and the Kiwis agreed.

Towards this end, Japan appealed to the Netherlands to stop the Dutch-flagged Greenpeace ships and Japan appealed to Canada to stop the Canadian-flagged Farley Mowat. No word yet from the Dutch, but the Canadians fell over like a limp maple leaf in the wind and sent Captain Paul Watson a letter on January 12, 2006, demanding to know why he did not inform the Canadian government of the change in operations of his vessel. The letter said that failure to inform the Department of Transport of a change in classification was punishable by a large fine and imprisonment. The letter made the assumption that a crime had been committed and gave Captain Watson 30 days to report on the new classification of the vessel. The letter said that the change in classification came from an unidentified source.

Could that source be Japan, we wonder? The letter was sent on January 12th and the crew of the Sea Shepherd had confronted the illegal activities of the Japanese whaling fleet on January 8th and 9th of 2006.

Our response on January 19th said that the reason there had not been any report of a change in classification of the status of the vessel was because there had been no change in the status of the vessel and that the vessel was doing the same thing presently, that it had been doing every day since it was registered as a Canadian-flagged vessel in April of 2002.

On January 24, the Farley Mowat arrived in the port of Cape Town, South Africa. The ship was immediately boarded and the South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) placed the ship under detention for failure to have commercial certificates onboard - specifically a safety inspection certificate, a security certificate, and a manning certificate. Captain Watson informed Captain Saleem Modak of SAMSA that the Certificate of Registry states that the ship is a Canadian yacht.

The detention order was strangely written. It describes the Port of Registry of the Farley Mowat as the "Farley Mowat" instead of "Vancouver." It states that the vessel is ordered detained because: The Vessel appears to be inadequately manned and is without a safety certificate.

Interesting. It "appears to be" they say. It is or it is not. And, of course, it is without a safety certificate because safety certificates are not issued to Canadian-registered yachts.

And the detention order was issued while the ship was at berth when there is no reason for it to be manned by anyone. A vessel could be ruled to be inadequately manned if it were at sea or even if it were about to go to sea. But by this logic any vessel sitting at any berth without a full crew could be said to be inadequately manned.

The ship certainly arrived adequately manned. The crew of 44 included 6 navigators including Paul Watson who has thirty years of experience as a deep-sea foreign going master.

The ship had a fully-certificated Chief Engineer with 6 engineering assistants. The ship had a licensed electrician, a professional shipyard welder, a master carpenter, a medical officer who is a registered nurse, three small boat mechanics, four computer technicians, three cooks, a full deck crew, a helicopter pilot, a hydraulic engineer, and a radio officer. All of this for a yacht, yet Captain Saleem Modak without looking at anyone's qualifications ruled that the ship "appeared" to be inadequately manned. Why? Because the ship did not have a manning certificate, a document that was not issued to the vessel as a yacht by Transport Canada.

Captain Modak cited Section 8 sections 73(4)(a);203(7);221L2)(a) and 223 of the Merchant shipping Act 1951 (Act No. 57 of 1951) as his reference to rule that the ship was a commercial vessel and the vessel would be detained until the required commercial certificates were produced.

In addition, although not cited on the detention order, Captain Modak delivered a letter when he arrived stating that the Farley Mowat did not have a security certification as required for a commercial vessel and ordered Captain Watson to pay the Port for an independent security guard to be permanently stationed at the gangway of the ship and another "independent" security guard to continuously patrol the ship's deck.

The letter also states that the radio license of the Farley Mowat expired on the 31st of March 2006. How could the license be considered expired when it is still valid for another two months? Captain Modak would not say.

The port has refused to provide the information on the cost of these security guards or the costs of the berth where the ship is detained.

This detention order put Captain Watson in an impossible situation. How could he ever hope to produce the demanded commercial certificates when these certificates are not issued by Canada for a yacht?

Canada has not been informed that the classification of the vessel has been changed. In fact, the letter of January 12th allowed 30 days to report a change in the classification of the vessel from yacht to commercial and on January 19th, a report of no change was sent.

Which brings us to the question of "what is a yacht?"

A yacht is a pleasure craft. It is a vessel that is operated for pleasure.

The Captain and crew of the Farley Mowat are not paid to operate the vessel and the crew do not pay a fee for passage, nor for room and board.

The ship does not engage in any commercial activity. The ship does not take on passengers and does not transport cargo. The ship does not engage in commercial research activities. All those who sail onboard do so for pleasure.

If it is considered a pleasurable activity to watch whales then why is it not a pleasurable activity to watch whalers?

If it is considered a pleasurable activity to kill fish from a yacht then why is it not a pleasurable activity to save fish from a yacht?

In fact, the crew of the Farley Mowat all reportedly take great pleasure in the voyages of the ship. They take pleasure in saving fish, sea turtles, whales, seals, and other marine life. They don't save marine life for profit, they protect marine life for pleasure.

The certificates that SAMSA is demanding were not demanded of the Farley Mowat in Melbourne and Hobart, Australia. They were not demanded in Wellington, New Zealand, or the Panama Canal, in Puerto Ayora, Ecuador, or Jacksonville, Florida, or Bermuda, or the French Islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, or Eastport and Portland, Maine or Halifax and Liverpool, Nova Scotia, or Port Aux Basques, Newfoundland - all ports that the Farley Mowat has visited in the last twelve months.

Only two weeks after intervening against illegal Japanese whaling activities, a demand is made for certificates that have never been asked for before. Yet Captain Modak expects the public to believe that this is simply a routine request and that the Farley Mowat is not being treated any different than any other ship.

It has also not escaped the notice of the Captain and the crew of the Farley Mowat that the port of Cape Town is used quite regularly by Japanese longliners. It has also been reported to Sea Shepherd by reliable sources in the South African corporate and governmental circles that Japanese whalers have quietly entered the port for refueling and supplies in the past and that a Japanese whaler is expected in Cape Town in February.

It is quite evident that Japan has strings to pull in the port of Cape Town.

The Japanese whalers believe that the Farley Mowat came to Cape Town to refuel and resupply in order to return to the Southern Oceans to once again harass the whaling fleet. What is happening now is a bureaucratic attack designed to delay the Farley Mowat as long as possible.

We do not know what the relationship is between Captain Saleem Modak and the Japanese whalers. What we do know is that Captain Modak was hostile, confrontational, arrogant, and exceedingly unhelpful in his dealings with Captain Watson.

The situation is that the ship is in possession of an official Certificate of Registry that designates the vessel as a pleasure craft. Therefore, the ship need not provide any documentation not issued to the vessel as a pleasure craft.

South Africa has no authority to dispute the classification and must accept the status of the vessel as described in the Certificate of Registry.

For Captain Saleem Modak to arrogantly dismiss the Canadian certificate of registry because he has determined the ship is not a pleasure craft, and is in his opinion, a commercial cargo vessel is both illegal and unacceptable.

Of course, Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will fight this harassment at all levels.

As the Sea Shepherd crew walk around Cape Town they are greeted as heroes. Citizens have been bringing donations of food and money to the ship. The media have written and broadcasted positive articles and programs about the campaign to protect the whales. The public loves whales and they love those who protect them.

But to Captain Modak and his cohorts at SAMSA, no thought is given to the whales. They are obsessed with harassing the Farley Mowat to prevent it from leaving port.

The amusing part about it, however, is that Sea Shepherd is in no hurry for the Farley Mowat to leave port.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will be returning to pursue the whalers again in December 2006 but with a different and faster ship.

The plan was for the Farley Mowat to remain in Cape Town to work on issues in Southern Africa. There are many things to protect and defend in Southern African waters. The Mozambique Channel is polluted with pirate fishing operations. Seals are being illegally slaughter in Namibia. Japanese whalers are sneaking into South Africa ports to take on fuel and supplies.

But for now, the crew of the Farley Mowat must concentrate on saving their ship from the foul clutches of bureaucrats who are more concerned with their petty harassments than with protecting the whales or our oceans.

Letters can be sent to Captain Saleem Modak directly. Please remain polite and professional when requesting better/fairer handling of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society or if protesting the treatment that the Society has received thus far.

Fax: +27 12 342 3160