A new coat of paint for the palm oil ships

Painting the Gran Couva, loaded with palm oil from Wilmar © Greenpeace/Novis

Painting the Gran Couva, loaded with palm oil from Wilmar © Greenpeace/Novis

Another dawn start today and even though it’s barely mid-morning as I type this, we’ve already been out into Dumai harbour and tagged three ships with environmental slogans. They’re loaded with palm oil from the plantations of Riau, just like the ones we’ve seen from the air and from the ground over the past few days, so being daubed with ‘Forest Crime’ and ‘Climate Crime’ in bright yellow paint is only appropriate.

The first stop on our tour of the port was the Gran Couva, a large tanker carrying 27,000 metric tonnes for palm oil giant Wilmar (the same company that owns the plantations John flew over on Saturday) and bound for Rotterdam in the Netherlands. The two painting teams got off to a great start, marking out the positions of the letters and getting stuck into ‘Crime’. Angry shouts from the Gran Couva’s crew did nothing to dissuade the painters, and neither did the hoses which were turned on them. Unfortunately, the water-based paint didn’t last so well and some of the letters began to run.

Defying the water hoses © Greenpeace/Rante

Defying the water hoses © Greenpeace/Rante

The team in the small inflatable headed to the stern to try their luck there, but were met by more hoses. The second team in Susie Q fared better and were able to complete the words ‘Forest Crime’ on the other side of the bow. Watching from a short distance in the media boat, I was impressed how easy the painters were making it look, despite the water hoses and the awkward task of writing with paint rollers fixed onto broom handles.

Mission completed, it was off to the next ship, the Smooth Sea operated by Musim Mas, another major palm oil producer. The crew of this Thai cargo vessel (destination: Yangon in China) were less quick to respond and the painters had no problem repeating the message in double-quick time. The Victory Prima (carrying palm oil for Sarana Tempa Perkasa) was just next door, and for variety the guys went for ‘Climate Crime’ instead. The crew on deck were even more relaxed, smiling and waving as we left, even thanking us for using water-based paint.

Putting the finishing touches to the Victory Prima © Greenpeace/Novis

Putting the finishing touches to the Victory Prima © Greenpeace/Novis

A message came through on the radio to go for a bonus ship, a barge loaded with meranti logs. It was a shift from the palm oil theme, but timber is an inevitable by-product of the deforestation happening here so it’s fair game. The crew of the attached tug were still waking up, but seemed happy to receive some of the campaign information leaflets we handed over.

There was no sign of any response from the authorities, and fired up by their success, the paint crews were eager to have another go at the Gran Couva. Well, it was on the way back to the Esperanza, but again they were too quick with the hosepipes and the paint didn’t have time to dry.

Even so, it was a very successful activity. Four ships in the harbour are now marked for the products of environmental destruction they’re carrying, and I can still see the slogans from the bridge of the Esperanza.

posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza

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