One bright morning in Bali recently a crowd gathered on the deck of Benoa harbor.
A big tent featuring a heavy sound system had been put up at the passenger dock, and crews wearing green shirts were roaming around, doing last-minute preparations for a monumental welcoming event.
A few minutes later, someone shouted “She’s coming,” and everybody rushed to the dock, their eyes scanning the horizon.
Cutting through the ocean, she slowly approached like a sparkling sea-goddess amid the rays of sun. The air was thick with excitement at her arrival.
It was a proud welcome, fit for fighters returned on a vessel from the battlefield. But this was no ordinary warrior.
Coming to the port was the legendary Rainbow Warrior, making a Bali visit as part of a month-long campaign tour titled “100% Indonesia: Protecting Our Forest and Oceans Together.” The tour started in Papua on May 9 and will end in Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta on Monday.
The Rainbow Warrior is a campaign ship owned by environmental organization Greenpeace and has been a vital part of the organization’s campaign activities for more than three decades.
Along with fellow Greenpeace campaign vessels Esperanza and Arctic Sunrise, Rainbow Warrior has been at the core of Greenpeace’s direct action campaign at sea, sailing to remote and often hostile areas to bear witness and report straight from the scenes of environmental destructions.
The current Rainbow Warrior is the successor of two previous ships: Rainbow Warrior I and II. The first Rainbow Warrior was a fishing trawler Greenpeace acquired in 1978, and sunk by the French Secret Service in 1985 during a protest against nuclear testing in New Zealand. Rainbow Warrior II served as Greenpeace’s campaign vessel for 22 years.
The ships have led dozens of environmental campaigns, including blocking access to coal ports, derailing illegal tuna fishing operations, and leading a triumphant direct action lasting more than 40 years against nuclear testing in the Pacific.
With such a long track record of leadership on environmental issues, the third-generation visit was anticipated by Bali green campaigners and supporters. The welcoming ceremony started with a Hindu blessing followed by a speech by Denpasar Mayor I.B. Rai Dharmawijaya Mantra and Greenpeace Indonesia chief Longgena Ginting.
Performances followed from Balinese dancers and Bali’s self-proclaimed green grunge gentlemen Navicula, with a special performance by the Rainbow Warrior’s crew singing a song about the plight of the oceans and the call to protect them.
Peter Willcox, captain of Rainbow Warrior, then welcomed the guests into a tour showcasing the state-of- the-art design and technology of the Rainbow Warrior.
The Rainbow Warrior III, referred to affectionately in the feminine by the Greenpeace crew, is a special ship.
While the first two warriors were transformed from fishing trawlers into campaign vessels, the current successor is the world’s first purpose-built environmental campaigning vessel.
An onboard satellite communication system allows the vessel to stream live footage directly from environmental crime scenes to the media. Greenpeace hopes this will make denials and cover-ups futile.
The ship is designed with sustainability as its guiding principal, upholding the highest environmental standards and bearing a green ship class notation.
Whenever possible, the ship sails using wind power, although it also has electric drive engines to help when weather isn’t favorable. On board, a biological treatment unit for sewage is installed, allowing up to 59 cubic meters of grey and black water to be stored to avoid any sea disposal.
On its rear deck is its famous action boat, deployable in minutes even in waves up to 3.5 meters high. The captain cited an example from a recent illegal fishing campaign in Papua, in which the boat was used for swift intervention.
The ship, funded primarily from supporter donations, used parts built in Poland that were assembled in Germany. It was officially launched in 2011.
The Rainbow Warrior was docked for two days at Benoa harbor in Bali. Greenpeace oceans campaigner Arifsyah M. Nasution urged the public to take action in the “race against time” to protect the planet.
“Sailing from Papua throughout these three weeks, we witnessed and documented the rich biodiversity that Indonesia contains,” Arifsyah said.
“But we also found that this biodiversity is fragile and under a great threat from irresponsible development that calls for support from all of us.
“We need to understand that whatever we do on the land will have impacts to the ocean, as it’s all interrelated.”
Longgena said that through the Indonesian tour, Greenpeace was eager to support the Indonesian government’s commitment to protect the ocean.
He further explained that Indonesia is home to some of the richest biodiversity in the world, yet is responsible for one of the fastest rates of environmental destruction.
Indonesia’s seas are also among the world’s most diverse coastal and marine habitats, with 590 species of corals and around 2,200 identified species of fishes. But experts identify the country’s coral reefs as among the world’s most threatened biodiversity habitats, at alarming risk from overfishing, pollution and climate change.
“The ocean and the forest are our future,” Longgena said.
“Our vision is to have Indonesian seas 100 percent free from illegal and destructive fishing, protected from any danger and safeguarded by the local communities who are actively involved in the management of their oceanic resources. And this vision can only be achieved if the government and all Indonesian people work hand in hand.”
As published in The Jakarta Globe: