According to published reports, a Japanese whaling vessel collided with a speedboat owned by the environmental group Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS).  The speedboat, named the Ady Gil, sustained “catastrophic” damage and may be a total loss.  The head of the SSCS, Paul Wilson, complained that his vessel was deliberately rammed by the whaling boat.

Mr. Wilson’s tactics involve harassment of whaling vessels by deliberately steering into the path of the vessel, thus forcing them to stop or to veer off course.  Wilson’s intent is to force the whaling boat to abandon its efforts to hunt whales.  Apparently he has succeeded in accomplishing this goal in the past.

Wilson’s tactics are illegal and incredibly dangerous.  Maritime law require that the smaller vessel must yield to the larger vessel.  This is common sense.  If the boats are heading towards a possible collision, the one that can steer most easily is the one obliged to get out of the way.

Apparently Wilson’s group has been playing chicken with larger boats.  In the past those boats seem to have managed to avoid colliding with the Ady Gil.  In this case, the collision wasn’t avoided.  While Wilson alleges that the Japanese bot deliberately rammed his speedboat, the evidence is not convincing.  It seems at least as likely that Mr. Wilson’s group miscalculated and simply got in the way of the other boat and got run over.  You just can’t keep playing chicken, and expect to emerge unscathed every time.  Play chicken with a big boat, and you risk getting creamed.

Some have called Mr. Wilson an “ecoterrorist”.  I believe this is not true.  He is just a terrorist.

According to Wordnet, terrorism is:

terrorism… (the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear)

While we’re used to thinking of terrorists as wild-eyed Muslims killing dozens of innocent people, the word includes those who resort to intimidation of any sort to further some goal.  Paul Wilson fits that definition.  He is a terrorist.

Wilson has boasted of sinking ten whaling boats, all without loss of life or injury.  That being the case, I cannot fathom why he is crying foul now that he’s received a taste of his own medicine.  Play with fire, get burned.

[New Update:] Upon further research, it appears that my original statement was correct – the heavier boat has the right of way. This, according to the American Boating Association.

I will say that regardless of who has the right of way, playing chicken with larger boats is asking for trouble. If I go to a busy street and play chicken with the cars, the drivers have the legal obligation to avoid hitting me. If I wind up getting it, I’m unlikely to garner much sympathy, because I was being a twit.

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