Anti-whaling activists step-up campaign with custom-built Ocean Warrior ship (VIDEO)

© Sea Shepherd
The marine activist group, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, has significantly expanded its capacity to battle whalers on the high seas in launching its new state-of-the-art, multi-million dollar vessel christened the Ocean Warrior.

The group, which has been branded controversial for their direct actions tactics, has made it their mission to end the “slaughter” of wildlife in the world’s oceans, and their aggressive campaigning often bringing crew members into conflict with large Japanese fishing vessels.

Disruption methods used by Sea Shepherd include attacking ships with diluted butyric acid stink bombs and entangling propellers with ropes.

“This new ship is a game changer,” Adam Burling with Sea Shepherd Australia said. “It opens up a whole new range of tactics for Sea Shepherd.”

The Ocean Warrior was built with €8.3 million funding donated by the Dutch Postcode Lottery, the UK People’s Postcode Lottery and Sweden’s Postcode Foundation.

In a statement, Sea Shepherd said the Ocean Warrior will beef up the organisation’s capacity to fight illegal poaching around the Antarctic.

"The Ocean Warrior is a custom-built, state-of-the-art vessel capable of achieving speeds that far exceed any of the vessel in our current fleet, built to operate in extreme weather conditions," the statement reads.

“This new ship is also equipped with a hybrid propulsion system, providing an extended range and drastic reduction of fuel consumption, both lowering fuel costs as well as limiting CO2 emissions.

"Its massive aft deck area will enable helicopter as well as small boat operations, and multitude of other uses."

In 2014, the Society were given a major boost when the International Court of Justice declared Japanese whaling for scientific purposes in the Southern Ocean illegal - a ruling which Japan has reportedly chosen to ignore.

Also in 2014, the Sea Shepherd’s Bob Barker collided with the Japanese vessel, Yushin Maru No 3. No one was hurt in the incident.

One of the major drawbacks with the organisation’s ships have been their age and lack of speed. Ocean Warrior will address this concern, Sea Shepherd’s Peter Hammarstedt is quoted as saying in the Sydney Morning Herald.

“Our biggest challenge in our campaigns in the past has been that the Japanese whaling vessels have rammed us with their superior size, and they have outrun us with their superior speed. So this is a vessel that they cannot catch,” he said.

The new ship will have the capability to launch helicopters and smaller boats from its deck, and is built to withstand harsh Antarctic conditions. Its maiden voyage is due to be part of Operation Nemesis in the Southern Ocean.

Members of Sea Shepherd, which was founded by former Greenpeace member Paul Watson in 1977, have previously been branded as “pirates” for their aggressive tactics to disrupt whaling.

READ MORE: Sea Shepherd anti-whalers now labeled 'pirates' by US fed court