WORLD-famous conservation ship the Steve Irwin Sea Shepherd docked in Launceston yesterday following successful anti-whaling campaigns in the Southern Ocean earlier this year.
The vessel will call Launceston home for the next three weeks, while vital repairs are carried out on the ship's propellers and engine, before the next round of anti-whaling operations begin later this year.
Despite a High Court ruling against Japan's whale research campaigns near Antarctica last year, ship manager Pia Klemp said the vessel's new repairs would ensure any future attacks on whale populations off Australia's shores were swiftly stopped.
``We have to always be ready,'' she said.
``Whalers said they were just going down to Antarctica to do non-lethal research, but our ships will be ready in case they change their mind and they go down to kill whales again.''
Ms Klemp said the Steve Irwin's rigorous schedule meant significant maintenance was required, including a propeller replacement at a cost of $30,000 for each blade.
``We have to do big steel replacements on the hull,'' she said.
``The conditions we take our ship through in the ice often requires some big repairs after a while.
``Our ship is pretty old _ it was built in 1975 _ so our engines have a long life and run many miles, we have to do a big engine overhaul as well.''
Launceston acting Mayor Jeremy Ball said the crew and ship's presence in Launceston was a great honour.
``It's fantastic to have the Sea Shepherd down here in Launceston,'' he said.
``It's great for Launceston _ this is an internationally famous vessel.
``But it's also great for [Southern Marine's] synchrolift . . . to win this tender against national companies, that's great news for Launceston as well.''
The Steve Irwin will remain at Kings Wharf for three weeks.