In late July, the Norwegian Coastal Administration notified the Greenpeace ship Esperanza that it was in violation of the country's Compulsory Pilotage Regulations. Last Friday, the ship was reviewed again. The captain was taken in for questioning by the Governor of Svalbard and ordered to pay a fine of 50,000 kroner.
"In July, the offense happened in Hinlopenstretet and the fjords there," said Per Andreassen, a police chief inspector for the governor. "Last week, the ship chose not to wait for the pilot because the pilot was delayed."
This is the first time someone has violated the compulsory pilotage rule in Svalbard.
Gov. Odd Olsen Ingerø said he imposed the fine after discussing similar issues with the NCA's Maritime Safety Department.
"And so it is clear that it is rather not worthwhile to not use a pilot," Ingerø said.
Roy Arne Rotnes, an NCA pilot master, said he regrets that Greenpeace violated the pilotage requirement.
"I think it is regrettable that some break the pilotage requirement, but particularly regrettable that Greenpeace has done it," Rotnes said. "Basically, I believe that Greenpeace is an organization that supports compulsory pilotage and will protect the areas they sail in. I think this is a bad case for all parties," he said.
Greenpeace expressed agreement with that assessment.
"It's a really unfortunate case," said Truls Gulowsen, head of Greenpeace Norway. "We recognize that the compulsory pilotage was broken, but it was not deliberate. We believe everyone should follow the pilotage rule and that it is very fortunate that it was introduced. We are very concerned with maritime safety rules."
'A strange misjudgment'
Gulowsen said that when Greenpeace came to Svalbard in late July, its members were not aware that the compulsory pilotage applied to them. At that time they were accompanied by a separate ice navigator with extensive experience in Arctic waters. He worked as an assistant to the captain.
"After that we learned that the pilotage rule also applies to us and we have had a pilot on board almost the entire time," Gulowsen said.
– Why was there another violation of the pilotage requirement last Friday?
"I have been informed that the captain chose to go into Longyearbyen without a pilot, as the pilot was 1.5 hours late to the pilotage point," Gulowsen said. "What happened in July was regrettable, but the incident this morning was a strange misjudgment by the captain," he said.
Greenpeace has not decided whether the captain's judgment will have consequences for his job in the environmental protection organization.
"It is a process we have under consideration," Gulowsen said. "We have not reached a conclusion on it yet."
The compulsory pilotage requirement for Svalbard has been gradually phased in since 2012. Before last year it stated all large passenger vessels 150 meters or longer must have a pilot, with the exception of expedition cruise vessels. This year, among other requirements, all large vessels 70 meters or longer must have a pilot with the exception of expedition cruise vessels. The Esperanza, according to Greenpeace's website, is 72.3 meters long.