The Rainbow Warrior, Greenpeace’s newest addition to its international fleet of protest and research vessels, paid a visit to the V & A waterfront recently, and will be departing for Mozambique from Durban on the 7th of September.The Flagship vessel, specially designed for Greenpeace’s campaign requirements , has just spent three months in the Amazon basin, protesting clear cutting and deforestation and is en route to the east coast of Africa, where it will be supporting a research based campaign against over fishing perpetrated by local and international fishing corporations.
The ship is the third Rainbow Warrior, and the first to be specifically designed and constructed for Greenpeace’s unqiue requirements. The first Rainbow Warrior was sunk by French secret agents in 1985 as a result of Greenpeace’s fervent protests against nuclear weapons testing in the South Pacific. The second Rainbow Warrior has been decommissioned by Greenpeace and now serves as a hospital ship in Bangladesh.
The Rainbow Warrior III is by far the most advanced vessel owned by the organisation, and has been designed with their unique requirements in mind, with a firm focus on sustainable materials and technology . As the ship’s captain, Peter Willcox explains, the vessel is primarily a sailing ship, with 300 square meters of sails able to be deployed electrically from the ship’s two 55 meter A frame masts. These sails allow the 58 meter ship to travel on the power of the wind 90% of the time, with an electric/diesel hybrid engine providing backup power for unfavourable sailing conditions and tight manoeuvring.
The ships is as fast as many industrial vessels, with action boats that can deployed in minutes in and sea conditions around the globe. It also has a helicopter landing pad, allowing activists to deploy an ‘eye in the sky’ to bare witness to illegal operations around the world. Furthermore, there is ample space for specialised scientific equipment on board, which allows for vital research to be carried out that informs scientists and the public about the state of the earth’s ecosystems. The ship also boasts an on-board satellite communications system and fully equipped conference room which serve to spread the message of environmental crimes directly to the public.
For Michael O’Brien-Onyeka, Excutive Director of Greenpeace Africa, the arrival of the Rainbow Warrior in South African waters is an inspiring sign of international support for the work that Greenpeace Africa has conducted since their inception in 2008. Despite their relative youth, Greenpeace Africa has already had significant successes in their campaigns against over fishing in Senegal, supporting rural communities in DRC with renewable energy systems, and taking the South African government and private sector to task for their controversial commitment to dangerous and damaging electrical technologies, namely coal and nuclear power.
Kumi Naidoo, International Executive Director of Greenpeace spoke strongly during a press conference in Cape Town aboard the Rainbow Warrior of the need for citizens to engage their governments on their policies and practises that are causing environmental, social and economic harm. According to Mr. Naidoo, South Africa has massive potential to be a leader in renewable energy generation, with huge amounts of solar and wind energy being available for harnessing. However, he continued, it is up to citizens to not only reduce their own personal impact on the environment but to effectively engage in the political space in order to make meaningful change.
The Rainbow Warrior is an inspiring emblem of international activism and its presence in African waters will certainly be felt by those harming the environment through unscrupulous practises.
For more information on how to support Greenpeace Africa in their critical work go to www.greenpeaceafrica.org
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Image courtesy of Matthew Koehorst