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Japanese whaler adrift in stormy seas

Greenpeace offer of help declined

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Japanese whaling vessel the Nisshin Maru - partially evacuated yesterday following an engine-room fire - is still wallowing powerless in Antarctica's stormy Ross Sea, the Daily Telegraph reports.

The remaining crew have, with assistance from other whaling fleet vessels, been able to control the blaze and stabilise the 8,000-ton ship by pumping out excess water. Accordingly, a spokesman for New Zealand's maritime agency told Reuters the immediate danger of environmental damage caused by oil or chemical leaks had passed.

Greenpeace has offered to send its vessel Esperanza, down in the Southern Ocean as part of a fleet dedicated to stopping the hunt of 850 minke whales and 10 fin whales, but the lifeline was declined. Greenpeace's expedition leader, Karli Thomas, said: "Our first thoughts are for the missing crewman and the rest of the people on board. This is not a time to play politics."

Glenn Inwood, a spokesman for the Institute of Cetacean Research which is in charge of Japan's whaling programme, retorted to AP: "The whole Greenpeace offer is a red herring. Their assistance is not required and will not be accepted."

It's not clear whether the Nisshin Maru's engines can be restarted, the Telegraph notes. One man is still missing, presumed dead, as a result of the fire. ®

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