The federal government says it has has no plans to send its Southern Ocean patrol vessel, Ocean Protector, to watch over this summer's Japanese whaling season.
With the whaling fleet likely to depart Japan next month, the red Customs and Border Protection ship is docked in Hobart today for what a Customs spokeswoman said was a minor repair.
The Coalition and Greens have in the past called for the secretive ship to be used to monitor the whalers, who this year are likely to be operating inside Australia's Antarctic whale sanctuary.
A former offshore oil and gas support ship, Ocean Protector has a range of up to 23,000 nautical miles and can carry up to 72 crew and Customs officers, according to Customs.
Its navigation equipment includes a forward looking infra-red detection system, and it is armed with two .50 calibre machineguns.
But the federal Environment Minister, Tony Burke, said today: "There are no plans to send a monitoring vessel to the Southern Ocean.
"I have been advised that the Ocean Protector is conducting routine maintenance in Hobart and it is not the government's policy to discuss operational activities."
In the conflict between whalers and Sea Shepherd conservationists in 2007-8, the previous patrol ship Oceanic Viking intervened as an intermediary to return two activists who boarded one of the whaling ships.
Mr Burke said Oceanic Viking's mission then was to gather evidence for a potential legal case against Japan.
"That mission was successfully accomplished and the legal case has now begun."
He repeated a call for calm in the upcoming confrontation.
"The Southern Ocean is no place for risk-taking, All parties ... must act with calm and restraint, and in accordance with international law."
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