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Old 11-08-2020, 18:33   #1
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Right to safe harbour

Yesterday I came across a vlog in my feed in which overhear a conversation on the VHF. In this conversation, the skipper of a NZ flagged 50yo wooden yacht is ordered to leave Minerva reef by Tongan navy despite the poor conditions outside the reef.

Minerva reef is a submerged safe refuge in the middle of the ocean literally days from anywhere between NZ and Fiji. Apparently it is contested between NZ and Tonga.

The skipper is quite adamant at first that he will not put his vessel in danger by leaving is less than ideal conditions, but is gradually forced by the Navy to leave. He finally agrees to head out and heave to for several days in the lee of the reef while the weather passes.

What recourse did this skipper have to this ridiculous order? Is there not some international maritime law that prevents this sort of nonsense? What would you have done?
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Old 11-08-2020, 18:38   #2
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Re: Right to safe harbour

when politics are involved the common sense disappears !
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Old 11-08-2020, 18:40   #3
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Re: Right to safe harbour

The reef is much closer to Tonga than NZ. I can see why the Tonga navy might be bothered by a NZ flagged ship.

Now might not be a good time to argue with virus closures.

But getting a Tonga flag, and having a Tonga check in probably would have gone far to diffuse the situation
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Old 11-08-2020, 18:42   #4
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Re: Right to safe harbour

Tonga has a history of vigorously defending any islands around its area of sovereignty.
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Old 11-08-2020, 19:20   #5
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Re: Right to safe harbour

It's disputed between Tonga and Fiji. Nz has never claimed it. There is no general agreement as to who owns it, not indeed as to whether there is any such thing since there's no permanent land there at high water.
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Old 11-08-2020, 19:27   #6
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Re: Right to safe harbour

So what would Tonga do?

Open fire on a NZ flagged vessel seeking safe harbor in a unpopulated reef?
A reef that the international community doesn’t even agree that Tonga has claim to?

As captain you are responsible for the safety of your boat and crew, I would no way risk that, might be worth a phone call to your insurance as well as embassy to let them know what is going on, if you can get a single out, maybe also a CH16 call in the blind / DSC, and record all of it.

Unless I thought I’d end up in a fight I wouldn’t win, I wouldn’t be pressured to put my boat out into dangerous conditions because someone said so.

This seems to be a trend with Tonga, this reef is not in anyone’s EEZ and appears to a internationally used and needed safe harbor, it would be nice if a more gown up country did a freedom of navigation with a destroyer or other large warship, and basically told Tonga to quit bullying little boats seeking safe harbor from storms.
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Old 11-08-2020, 21:50   #7
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Re: Right to safe harbour

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Originally Posted by IslandInfedel View Post
So what would Tonga do?

Open fire on a NZ flagged vessel seeking safe harbor in a unpopulated reef?
A reef that the international community doesn’t even agree that Tonga has claim to?

As captain you are responsible for the safety of your boat and crew, I would no way risk that, might be worth a phone call to your insurance as well as embassy to let them know what is going on, if you can get a single out, maybe also a CH16 call in the blind / DSC, and record all of it.

Unless I thought I’d end up in a fight I wouldn’t win, I wouldn’t be pressured to put my boat out into dangerous conditions because someone said so.

This seems to be a trend with Tonga, this reef is not in anyone’s EEZ and appears to a internationally used and needed safe harbor, it would be nice if a more gown up country did a freedom of navigation with a destroyer or other large warship, and basically told Tonga to quit bullying little boats seeking safe harbor from storms.

Yes, a freedom of navigation cruise should be done. I’m not sure why Tonga is suddenly (?) so interested in exercising their sovereignty over Minerva Reefs. Is it only since the time of Covid-19 closures or has this been going on for longer? I’ve never heard of them being interested in yachts stopping for a day or several at the reefs before.

In previous years we’ve told Tongan Customs and Immigration about stopping there and planning to stop there and they haven’t been interested at all.
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Old 11-08-2020, 22:30   #8
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Re: Right to safe harbour

Found the VLOG:
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Old 11-08-2020, 22:37   #9
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Re: Right to safe harbour

Quote:
Originally Posted by pwillems View Post
Yesterday I came across a vlog in my feed in which overhear a conversation on the VHF. In this conversation, the skipper of a NZ flagged 50yo wooden yacht is ordered to leave Minerva reef by Tongan navy despite the poor conditions outside the reef.

Minerva reef is a submerged safe refuge in the middle of the ocean literally days from anywhere between NZ and Fiji. Apparently it is contested between NZ and Tonga.

The skipper is quite adamant at first that he will not put his vessel in danger by leaving is less than ideal conditions, but is gradually forced by the Navy to leave. He finally agrees to head out and heave to for several days in the lee of the reef while the weather passes.

What recourse did this skipper have to this ridiculous order? Is there not some international maritime law that prevents this sort of nonsense? What would you have done?
With reference to the statement in bold, no, Minerva is not "safe refuge"; they lie NE of NZ, and SW of Fiji, approximately. It is quite safe under some conditions, less so under enhanced trade winds (30-35+) at high water. Under some conditions, yes, it is magic, like many of the ocean reefs that you can get into.

I disagree with the attitude expressed in the final paragraph. To me, the order is not "ridiculous". The patrol boat is tasked with protecting the sea life breeding grounds at the reefs (it is both N. and S. Minerva Reefs.) From their point of view of conservation, it is most certainly not "nonsense."

I think the skipper in question did the right thing, i.e., if he wanted to shelter his boat behind the reef, what he did would do that: the leeward side of the reef offers wave protection. I also think he did the right thing, by complying with the patrol boat's request. Myself, I would not have argued. Imho, the conditions were not that bad as to make an egregious claim for sanctuary. Apparently that skipper viewed the situation differently. Now, if he were in the middle of making a repair, he would have been able to show the patrol boat's crew what he was fixing, and I'm pretty sure they'd let him stay to fix it. I'd like to add that fixing something while hove to, is usually doable, though not optimum. The boat's pretty stable, but it does go up and down with the waves.

When one is out cruising, one is like a good will ambassador for one's country of origin. Friendliness and cooperation are almost always appropriate when dealing with other nations' representatives. If they ask you to do something you feel jeopardizes the welfare of your ship or crew, you should express that, simply and clearly, so they can see your point of view. But, they're the guys with the guns, physically and metaphorically; you need to be sensible about it.

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Old 12-08-2020, 00:16   #10
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Re: Right to safe harbour

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Originally Posted by JPA Cate View Post
With reference to the statement in bold, no, Minerva is not "safe refuge"; they lie NE of NZ, and SW of Fiji, approximately. It is quite safe under some conditions, less so under enhanced trade winds (30-35+) at high water. Under some conditions, yes, it is magic, like many of the ocean reefs that you can get into.

I disagree with the attitude expressed in the final paragraph. To me, the order is not "ridiculous". The patrol boat is tasked with protecting the sea life breeding grounds at the reefs (it is both N. and S. Minerva Reefs.) From their point of view of conservation, it is most certainly not "nonsense."

I think the skipper in question did the right thing, i.e., if he wanted to shelter his boat behind the reef, what he did would do that: the leeward side of the reef offers wave protection. I also think he did the right thing, by complying with the patrol boat's request. Myself, I would not have argued. Imho, the conditions were not that bad as to make an egregious claim for sanctuary. Apparently that skipper viewed the situation differently. Now, if he were in the middle of making a repair, he would have been able to show the patrol boat's crew what he was fixing, and I'm pretty sure they'd let him stay to fix it. I'd like to add that fixing something while hove to, is usually doable, though not optimum. The boat's pretty stable, but it does go up and down with the waves.

When one is out cruising, one is like a good will ambassador for one's country of origin. Friendliness and cooperation are almost always appropriate when dealing with other nations' representatives. If they ask you to do something you feel jeopardizes the welfare of your ship or crew, you should express that, simply and clearly, so they can see your point of view. But, they're the guys with the guns, physically and metaphorically; you need to be sensible about it.

Ann
For one the reef is outside of their EEZ, they have zero authority to “protect” it from anyone.

What exactly is a small sailing catamaran hiding from a storm going to do to damage a unpopulated reef anyways?

Australia built and gave those patrol boats to the Tonga navy, Tonga’s misuse of these vessels, causing a potential dangerous situation by kicking out small private boats hiding from storms, hopefully Australia would reason with Tonga, or at least not rearm their navy when those patrol boats reach the end of their service life.

“ When the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea extended maritime nations' exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to 200 kilometres (120 mi)}, Australia designed and built 22 patrol vessels for 12 of its fellow members of the Pacific Forum.Australia provided the patrol vessel free of charge, and helped build port facilities and provide training. This allowed its neighbour to exercise sovereignty over their EEZ, intercept smugglers, and poaching fishers, and provide emergency services.

Australia will replace Savea and her two sister ships with two slightly larger and more capable vessels between 2019 and 2020.”


Might be worth a call to the authorities in Australia to express your frustration with Tonga using the military weapons, provided by the tax payers of Australia, to harass small private cruisers, bully them into bad weather,, who arnt even in Tonga’s EEZ.
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Old 12-08-2020, 00:40   #11
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Right to safe harbour

Quote:
Originally Posted by IslandInfedel View Post
For one the reef is outside of their EEZ, they have zero authority to “protect” it from anyone.

What exactly is a small sailing catamaran hiding from a storm going to do to damage a unpopulated reef anyways?

Australia built and gave those patrol boats to the Tonga navy, Tonga’s misuse of these vessels, causing a potential dangerous situation by kicking out small private boats hiding from storms, hopefully Australia would reason with Tonga, or at least not rearm their navy when those patrol boats reach the end of their service life.

“ When the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea extended maritime nations' exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to 200 kilometres (120 mi)}, Australia designed and built 22 patrol vessels for 12 of its fellow members of the Pacific Forum.Australia provided the patrol vessel free of charge, and helped build port facilities and provide training. This allowed its neighbour to exercise sovereignty over their EEZ, intercept smugglers, and poaching fishers, and provide emergency services.

Australia will replace Savea and her two sister ships with two slightly larger and more capable vessels between 2019 and 2020.”


Might be worth a call to the authorities in Australia to express your frustration with Tonga using the military weapons, provided by the tax payers of Australia, to harass small private cruisers, bully them into bad weather,, who arnt even in Tonga’s EEZ.


Minerva Reefs are outside Tonga’s EEZ https://www.marineregions.org/gazett...etails&id=8448 but one of their Special Fishery Management Areas http://www.fao.org/3/a-i7278e.pdf. So they have a right to manage visiting yachts to Minerva Reefs at least from a conservation point of view.

And “bully into bad weather”, that wasn’t bad weather. Not pleasant, but certainly not dangerous, and still suitable for sail repair.

As JP Cate said, Minerva Reefs are not a suitable spot to sit out a storm - the reef is under water at high tide and there’s a fair bit of surge coming into the lagoons during heightened trade winds, let alone a storm with significant low pressure raising the water level.
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Old 12-08-2020, 01:23   #12
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Re: Right to safe harbour

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Minerva Reefs are not a suitable spot to sit out a storm - the reef is under water at high tide and there’s a fair bit of surge coming into the lagoons during heightened trade winds, let alone a storm with significant low pressure raising the water level.
NOt sure about my memory, but didn't a few boats ride out the infamous Queen's Birthday storm of 1994 in Minerva? Not ideal, but better than being at sea IIRC.

And I'm left with a nagging question: if there had not been the publicity circulating around the incident, possibly the Tongan reaction would have been more in keeping with their normal kinda laid back attitude about the reef? There is some controversy abut the timing and nature of the communications between the yachts involved and the powers that be in Tonga, but the situation clearly touched a nerve in their bureaucracy, one known to be a bit touchy at times.

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Old 12-08-2020, 01:34   #13
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Re: Right to safe harbour

Tonga was doing the same thing in 2008 when I sailed through there.
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Old 12-08-2020, 01:35   #14
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Re: Right to safe harbour

Quote:
Originally Posted by IslandInfedel View Post
For one the reef is outside of their EEZ, they have zero authority to “protect” it from anyone.

What exactly is a small sailing catamaran hiding from a storm going to do to damage a unpopulated reef anyways?

Australia built and gave those patrol boats to the Tonga navy, Tonga’s misuse of these vessels, causing a potential dangerous situation by kicking out small private boats hiding from storms, hopefully Australia would reason with Tonga, or at least not rearm their navy when those patrol boats reach the end of their service life.

“ When the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea extended maritime nations' exclusive economic zone (EEZ) to 200 kilometres (120 mi)}, Australia designed and built 22 patrol vessels for 12 of its fellow members of the Pacific Forum.Australia provided the patrol vessel free of charge, and helped build port facilities and provide training. This allowed its neighbour to exercise sovereignty over their EEZ, intercept smugglers, and poaching fishers, and provide emergency services.

Australia will replace Savea and her two sister ships with two slightly larger and more capable vessels between 2019 and 2020.”


Might be worth a call to the authorities in Australia to express your frustration with Tonga using the military weapons, provided by the tax payers of Australia, to harass small private cruisers, bully them into bad weather,, who arnt even in Tonga’s EEZ.
Could not agree with you more. It is plain and simply bullying and there is zero excuse for this behaviour. If the captain of that small yacht decided he needed to sit out the bad weather or even just get some rest, it is his decision to make and not anyone else's place to comment on his reasons here.

This is petty bureaucracy/political BS at it's worst. It is a submerged reef, there is nothing there that could possibly be affected by a yacht dropping the anchor for a few days. Sailors plan their passages knowing that they can wait out a front in there and the Tongan navy stepping in forcing perilous changes in plans is nonsensical.

What I would like to know is what recourse does a sailor have? Were it me and I was being told to take my crew into a situation I am not comfortable with, I definitely would have put up a much bigger fight starting with a call to my embassy in Tonga.
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Old 12-08-2020, 02:07   #15
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Re: Right to safe harbour

Nothing but respect for Windora... no 'show ponies' there... no Youtube queens...



They were going non stop Panama/NZ

Three pit stops en route for repairs.... no drama

https://cruisingonwindora.blogspot.c...leg-to-nz.html
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