Posts tagged climate change

Update: anchor chain climber released

A quick update with some very good news: our climber has been released from custody with no charges, as no complaints have been made to the police by either Wilmar or the operators of the Gran Couva.

We’ve also been asked once again to leave Dumai, but we’re still here.

posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza

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Greenpeace climber brought down in front of cops, spectators and fruit sellers

A policeman pushes a Greenpeace climber down from the anchor chain of the Gran Couva © Greenpeace/Novis

A policeman pushes a Greenpeace climber down from the anchor chain of the Gran Couva © Greenpeace/Novis

I was hoping we’d make the anchor chain occupation last for at least 24 hours and earlier this morning it was looking like we’d make it. However, we lost out by about 40 minutes because at 12.45pm our climber was removed from the Gran Couva and has been taken away by the police. Never the less, our actions prevented the departure of the Gran Couva and it’s cargo of palm oil, plus we’ve made a big noise in the local, national and international media coverage about the link between the palm oil trade and deforestation.

According to our logistics co-ordinator Ric who was on the scene, police boats gathered during the morning until about 60 police were waiting at the bottom of the anchor chain. The main police boat had an embarrassing mishap on the way in, colliding with the Gran Couva before retreating to a safe distance. Adding to the crowd were pompong boats selling pineapples, jack fruit, onions and other essentials, like little floating shops, as well as various spectators watching the drama.

Bustar negotiates with the harbour master © Greenpeace/Rante

Bustar negotiates with the harbour master © Greenpeace/Rante

Bustar also went from the Esperanza to negotiate, and was treated like a minor celebrity by the police – they remember him from the Rainbow Warrior’s visit last year and many wanted to have their pictures taken with him. Apparently, there was even a spot of saluting going on.

Our climber surrounded by police © Greenpeace/Rante

Our climber surrounded by police © Greenpeace/Rante

But with terms like, “Your climber comes down in 15 minutes or we get him down,” there’s not much room to negotiate, and in the end, it was the climber’s decision to stay put.

An attempt was made to lower the anchor chain and deliver our climber into the hands of the police, but he just shifted further up. Finally, one policeman climbed up the chain until he was above our activist, gradually pushing down until his colleagues could cut the climber free. He’s now been taken away by the police but I’m told he’s fine and well.

The Gran Couva didn’t hang around and has already left Dumai to deliver 27,000 metric tonnes of palm oil to Rotterdam in about three weeks. We’ve been asked to leave the port but while our climber is still in custody we’ll be sticking around for a while longer.

In the meantime, here’s the conversation between our captain Madeleine and the harbour master when she was asked if the man on the anchor chain would kindly move to a different ship.

posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza

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Still hanging in there

It’s mid-morning now and our climber is still hanging in there on the anchor chain of the Gran Couva. It rained heavily after dark so it wasn’t the most comfortable way to spend the night, but now the sun is beating down once more.

Earlier this morning, the Gran Couva took a pilot on board to guide them out of the port but of course with the anchor still in place they are unable to leave. I was on the bridge when over the radio we heard the captain of the Gran Couva say something along the lines of, “Well, apart from Greenpeace hanging on my anchor chain, I’m ready to go.” So one person has successfully stopped a massive shipment of palm oil leaving for Europe.

In the past half-hour, the police have arrived at the scene and Bustar, the on board campaigner, has gone to negotiate with them. Madeleine, our captain, has also spoken to the harbour master who asked if our climber would kindly move to another ship so the Gran Couva can depart, which brought a smile to our faces.

More later as it happens, or follow our Twitter feed for micro-updates.

posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza

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It takes only one person to stop a giant palm oil tanker

The hoses are turned on our climber attached to the anchor chain of the Gran Couva © Greenpeace/Novis

The hoses are turned on our climber attached to the anchor chain of the Gran Couva © Greenpeace/Novis

We’ve stepped up our game here in Dumai and have returned to the scene of our first paint job this morning: the Gran Couva. After returning to the Esperanza for a break, some boat cleaning and a spot of lunch (who says direct action can’t be civilised?), a team returned to the palm oil tanker but this time the action hinges on just one man, and he’s currently attached to the Gran Couva’s anchor chain.

On the chain © Greenpeace/Novis

On the chain © Greenpeace/Novis

A Greenpeace climber has made his way up the chain and positioned himself so they can’t lift the anchor. This means the ship can’t leave the port and this will cause considerable inconvenience to Wilmar, the company that owns the cargo of palm oil.

It’s exactly what we want because, although Wilmar is a member of the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, there’s nothing sustainable about the company’s practice of tearing up forests and peatlands to grow its oil palms.

Given how enthusiastic the Gran Couva’s crew were with the hosepipes earlier on, it was no surprise that he got a good drenching but the sustained barrage went on for 30 minutes.

Never the less, he’s still hanging on and that’s in no small part thanks to the incredible negotiation skills of our electrician Paul. He’d gone along to assist in the boats but it was his ability to speak Hindi which persuaded the Indian crew members manning the hoses to turn them off.

Meanwhile, we’ve heard from the harbour master who has us to stop our activities and the police have just arrived at the tanker to see what’s going on. We’ll see what comes of that, but for now our climber is still on the anchor chain and the Gran Couva isn’t going anywhere.

posted by Jamie on the Esperanza

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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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Sumatra’s dark, satanic mills

A small town for workers in the heart of a Wilmar palm oil plantation © Greenpeace/Novis

A small town for workers in the heart of a Wilmar palm oil plantation © Greenpeace/Novis

As a Greenpeace photographer, I find myself creating pictures in many interesting places. In any part of the world where there is a critical environmental problem, the Greenpeace photographers are there making the best visuals possible to share with everybody. Yesterday was no exception.

It was the last of the twice-daily, three-hour helicopter surveys of Riau province in Sumatra, carried out over the last four days. Every flight survey has been fascinating but this one – documenting the palm oil plantations belonging to Wilmar, one of the biggest palm oil companies in Indonesia – was breathtaking on a scale I have never seen before.

After flying a short while over intact and beautiful peatland forest, in the distance there appeared what looks like a sea or enormous lake. As we approached, we started to make out a green plain stretching to the horizon. Closer still and we knew we had found what we were looking for – the Wilmar plantations.

A very short commute to the plantation from these houses © Greenpeace/Novis

A very short commute to the work from these houses © Greenpeace/Novis

The forest ends like a clean-cut cliff and acres upon acres of oil palms take over the view point passing endlessly by, with straight dust roads intersecting each other over small man-made canals. Occasionally, a small group of workers’ houses with a little mosque punctuated the monotonous monoculture spanning all around us, as if we were not moving or going anywhere.

Around this panorama we started to see smoke drifting from different points in the 360-degree, flat palm tree plain. The smoke revealed a small factory, houses build up and a small town emerged within the plantation. As we circled the factory and I was photographing with interest, it became clear to me that the world’s demand for palm oil, found in countless cosmetics and consumables, has created an industrial revolution here in Riau.

Processing plants sit within the plantations as well &copy Greenpeace/Novis

Processing plants sit within the plantations as well © Greenpeace/Novis

It reminds me of the mill towns in the north of England where the boom times in cotton became a magnet for workers and the large towns grew rapidly. From the air, it’s so easy to see this rapid industrial progress, but also the sudden loss of huge areas of peatland forest, rich in biodiversity and carbon, simply trashed overnight for a quick buck.

While capturing everything on camera that I can, I was dismayed by the palm oil rush driven by this economic short-term thinking, funded and promoted heavily by the multinational’s greed for cheap oil at the expense of the forest’s treasures and threatened species, such as the Sumatran tiger and orang-utan.

Oil palm fruit being processed © Greenpeace/Novis

Oil palm fruit being processed © Greenpeace/Novis

Yet there is a further sting in the tail of this environmental catastrophe. The peatlands hold tonnes and tonnes of carbon and, when drained to make the plantations, it’s released in the atmosphere, contributing further to climate change.

Once back on the Esperanza, I edit my pictures and send them out to the world. Along with my colleagues who campaign tirelessly on creating a moratorium to save the peatland forests of Riau, I wish sense will rain down to stop this wanton destruction of something that is desperately fragile and so close to disappearing forever.

posted by John on board the Esperanza

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Welcome to Dumai

Surveying the ships anchored in Dumai port © Greenpeace/Woolley

Surveying the ships anchored in Dumai port © Greenpeace/Woolley

Early this morning, we heaved anchor and left Sungai Pakning to travel a short distance up the coast of Sumatra to Dumai. The journey only took a few hours and the scenery hasn’t changed that much: we’re anchored in another murky channel between the mainland and a clutch of islands, slightly wider this time, and the port itself is bigger. Much bigger, in fact, because Dumai is the second largest port in terms of palm oil export in the country; Belawan port in the city of Medan is the largest, and that’s also in Sumatra.

Our task here is to monitor palm oil exports, checking which ships are loading up with it and where they’re bound. This is a busy port with several large container ships waiting to dock and load their cargoes. Many of them will be taking consignments of palm oil to locations in Europe, China and elsewhere, so Dumai is a critical link in the chain, connecting the ongoing devastation of Indonesia’s rainforests with the supermarkets and petrol stations elsewhere in the world.

Keep reading and I’ll let you know what we uncover.

posted by Jamie on board the Esperanza

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