IPS NEWS AGENCY
GDANSK, POLAND — Exactly 25 years after French secret agents sank its flagship and killed one of its crew, Greenpeace has begun construction of a new Rainbow Warrior. The group's leaders say its environmental campaigning is needed more than ever.
The new ship will be the group's most environmentally friendly vessel in its almost 40-year history.
Greenpeace leaders say that the third Rainbow Warrior is not just an example of environmentally-friendly engineering but a symbol of global campaigning against environmental abuse.
Starting the construction work with a traditional keel-laying ceremony in the Polish port of Gdansk Saturday (Jul. 10), Greenpeace head Dr Kumi Naidoo, said: "Since setting sail in 1978 the Rainbow Warrior has been on the frontline of challenging environmental abuse. She is an icon of non-violent direct action and a beacon of hope for millions of people around the world. More than ever the world needs hope, it needs action, it needs a Rainbow Warrior."
The Rainbow Warrior has become an icon of environmental campaigning since the first vessel — a converted fishing trawler — was launched by the group in 1978.
It became a household name, albeit in tragic circumstances, in July 1985 when, moored in Auckland, New Zealand, it was sunk by French secret service agents to stop it travelling to the French Polynesia to disrupt nuclear testing.
Crew member and photographer Fernando Pereira was killed as the boat sank after two mines placed on its hull exploded.
Two French agents were arrested and jailed for ten years after they pleaded guilty to manslaughter in a plea-bargaining deal. They served only two years of their sentence.
Crew members who were on the ship the night it was bombed said the significance of the keel-laying exactly 25 years to the day the original Rainbow Warrior was bombed is important.
Peter Willcox, captain of Rainbow Warrior when it was bombed, told IPS: "July 10th is a day when I always reflect on the fact that a democratic superpower went so totally wrong, and murdered one of my shipmates. There is nothing we can do, including start the construction of a new Rainbow Warrior, that will ever change that.
"The building of the Rainbow Warrior III is the strongest way Greenpeace can say it believes in the future of the planet. Coming up with the money, for a medium size non-profit organization which does not take corporate sponsorship or government grants is a major undertaking. It is Greenpeace's way of saying we believe in the future and will keep working to make it as green and peaceful as possible." A schooner was acquired by Greenpeace in 1989 and converted into Rainbow Warrior II. That is now more than 50 years old, and Greenpeace opted to build a new vessel rather than refurbish an old one — a move Dr Naidoo told IPS he hoped would set an example for world leaders and ordinary people alike.
"It is essential that all of us, both at Greenpeace but also in civil society as a whole, aim to be the change we hope to see in the world," he said.
"We are asking politicians and individuals to make policy and investment decisions based not upon costs alone but upon concern for the environment and the future of our children — concern for the future of our planet. Some of these changes might be costly and controversial at the start — over time though they pay themselves off and become money-savers — but we feel there is no option."
The group says that the ship has been designed as a pure sailing vessel, powered almost exclusively by wind. Comprehensive studies were undertaken involving engineers and scientists for the design of every area of the ship and its operation so as to minimise environmental impact. It will also be fitted with modern, high-tech communications equipment including satellite broadcasting facilities.
The group has described it as "a model of ecologically sensitive design" and points to features it claims make it more environmentally friendly than other ships, such as a central filling system for oil and fuel in order to prevent spillages, and toxin-free paint.
Ulrich von Eitzen, operations director at Greenpeace, told IPS the ship was being built not as a technological showcase but as an operational vessel designed to help Greenpeace tackle environmental abuse on the sea in places where other campaign groups cannot go.
"The new Rainbow Warrior will go on doing what the other Rainbow Warriors have always done," he said. "It is a symbol of our organisation and our campaign and a global tool for Greenpeace.
"The date for the keel laying has a lot of meaning for us. Choosing this specific date shows that we will not be silenced, no matter what happens, and that there is now more need than ever for us to continue our campaign work."