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The Fury Project

The founder of the Overcomer Ministry, Brother R Stair, had provided most of the funding for the project, estimated to be in excess of $500,000. Brother Stair was already an accomplished radio evangelist whose doomsday predictions were aired over WWCR and WRNO shortwave stations as well as many other stations across the USA. One of his programmes had even been relayed from the MV Fury on 12th July 1993 whilst she was in Boston Harbour being fitted out as a radio ship. During this broadcast Brother Stair explained about plans for his new world-wide radio station and asked for donations from listeners.

The original plans were for some programmes to be fed to the ship via satellite from studios in New York and then re-broadcast from the Fury. Other programmes were to be taped or broadcast live from the ship. The satellite facilities came about through Scott Becker, who operated a satellite airtime brokerage company - Becker Satellite Network in New York.

There were stories circulating that the Fury would also be equipped with medium wave and FM radio transmitters as well as a UHF television transmitter, but no definite proposals for the use of these facilities were made public.

Both the ship and the radio stations were to be properly licensed - by the Central American country of Belieze - and broadcasts would take place from within its territorial waters. Despite many stories and rumours circulating at the time there were never any plans for the vessel to anchor off either the USA or Britain for fear that she would be forcibly boarded by their respective authorities. Al Weiner's experience with the RNYI ship Sarah in 1989 and the boarding the same year of the Radio Caroline vessel,  Ross Revenge by the British and Dutch authorities made him determined that the project should be fully licensed and legal from the outset.

The MV Fury was partially fitted out in Boston Harbour - where Al Weiner's former offshore vessel, MV Sarah, was still located. In fact some of the broadcasting equipment from the Sarah was transferred to the Fury whilst both vessels were in Boston.

Originally it was planned that the stations would be on the air by the autumn of 1993, a date later postponed to Christmas. In fact there were so many delays with engine problems and general fitting out that the Fury did not set sail from Boston until 5th November 1993 and even then it was only to head for South Carolina where she was to be re-painted.

Towards the end of November 1993 a Washington radio station broadcast details of the plans for what had by then become known as the 'Fury Project' and the story was soon picked up by other media outlets across the USA. The FCC had also become aware of the existence of the Fury and the plans for her to be used as an offshore radio station. In late December 1993 one of their monitoring stations reported picking up transmissions on a shortwave frequency often used by landbased pirates and they were traced to South Carolina. In early January 1994 FCC officials headed to Charleston, South Carolina, where they spent two weeks tracking unauthorised radio broadcasts.

In the early hours of 14th January FCC monitors picked up some test tone transmission  which their direction finding equipment identified as coming from the MV Fury, anchored on the Wando River in Charleston.

On 19th January 1994 US Coastguard and FCC officials boarded and seized the Fury, which by then was in the Halsey and Cannon Shipyard, Charleston. After ordering the crew to leave the radio ship additional FCC officials arrived with cutting equipment and a barge crane and, during a 36 hour operation, they removed and seized every piece of radio equipment on the grounds that the ship was an un-licensed pirate station - the very situation Al Weiner had all along sought to avoid. Assistant US Attorney Joseph P Griffith Jr. said that it was the Government's intention merely to seize the radio equipment and not pursue criminal charges against individuals.

As justification for its actions the FCC claimed that the previous Friday, 14th January 1994, they had identified the Fury as the source of illegal broadcasts on 7415kHz shortwave. Before boarding the vessel and seizing radio equipment they had obtained a Court Order from the District Court of South Carolina, which had been granted on 18th January.

Al Weiner, despondent at losing yet another potential offshore radio station, initially claimed that he had only ever tested the transmitter equipment on board the Fury into a dummy load and that someone else on board the vessel had, without his knowledge, engaged in unauthorised broadcasts. Later, however, he issued a statement saying that on the dates quoted by the FCC it would have been impossible for the Fury to have made any transmissions because the equipment on board was at that stage inoperative and had no power supply. This later statement was subsequently reaffirmed by Al Weiner in a declaration to the US Federal Court in February 1994.  

The MV Fury had been gutted of all radio equipment by the FCC, although the vessel herself was left intact she was of no further use as an operational offshore radio station. After the raid Brother Stair said he would have nothing more to do with the offshore radio project, having already spent some $300,000, but it was reported that the Overcomer Ministry would be suing for $40 million damages arising from the raid on what they considered to be a legally registered and licensed radio station. In the event this legal action was not pursued as Brother Stair felt it would prove too expensive. He did, however, continue to maintain his point of view that the raid on the Fury was a deliberate attempt by the US authorities to silence his 'preachings' and stop his views being broadcast worldwide.

There was another, more straightforward, theory that the raid had been prompted by an ownership dispute involving radio equipment removed from the former RNYI ship, Sarah. A Washington company, which claimed ownership of the Sarah and all the radio equipment left on board her, claimed that Al Weiner had removed the equipment without authorisation and installed it on the Fury.

Whatever the reason for the raid the action by the FCC effectively put an end to the whole 'Fury Project' before it had had the opportunity to transmit a single programme. There is no doubt that the concept of the plan was sound - a legal, licensed offshore station broadcasting from within the registry state's territorial waters. This, in part at least, was one approach the Radio Caroline organisation had examined as a means of circumventing Britain's 1990 Broadcasting Act.

However, once again the American authorities had exercised their extensive powers to prevent the station ever being able to commence transmissions and, despite optimistic statements that Voyager Broadcasting Services would purchase and equip another ship this incident brought to an end attempts by American citizens and organisations to become directly involved in American-based offshore radio broadcasting.

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