Palm oil blockade

Feature story - November 15, 2007
(UPDATED - see below) With a banner reading 'Palm Oil Kills Forests and Climate' the Rainbow Warrior has anchored next to a palm oil tanker blocking it in port. Our ship is stationed close enough to the tanker that the tug boats can't get it out of dock.

Rainbow Warrior blocking the tanker MT Westama, which is loading over 30,000 tonnes of palm oil.

The tanker is a large one, loading 33,000 tonnes of palm oil. The Rainbow Warrior has two anchors out from its bow. One is actually under our ship and our crew has rigged ropes from the back of the Warrior to the anchor's chain. This keeps the Rainbow Warrior from being swung around by current or wind - so it stays in good position.

16 November

- Blockadecontinues. And this morning eight activists climbed on the palm oiltanks nearby with a banner saying "Palm Oil Kills Climate &Forests". They've been taken into custodysince.

Reada first hand update from captiain Mike on the RainbowWarrior.

Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior was forced to move on it'sthird day of blocking the tanker, MT Westama, from leaving Dumai portwith over 30 000 metric tons of Palm Oil.Enlargeimage   17November - The blockade ends. After 3 days of tensebut peaceful stand-off, the Rainbow Warrior has been forced off herpostition where she has been actively blocking the huge palm oiltanker. After being warned that trying to move the tanker would beunsafe, the captain of the tanker said that his ship was now under thecontrol of Dumai Port Authoritypilots. Update from Sue (on board).

What's wrong with this stuff

This particular cargo of palm oil is headed for India, but countries all over the world import the stuff.  The harbour here has huge holding tanks full of it from plantations on what was once rainforest land.  

The exporting company is Permata Hijau Sawit. They source oil from companies known to be involved in forest destruction and forest fires on peat land in Riau province, Indonesia.

The expansion of palm oil plantations into forest and peatland areas poses a serious threat to the global climate and Indonesia's remaining forests. Expansion plans in Riau province alone have the potential of triggering a 'climate time bomb'. Riau's peatland forests store a massive 14.6 billion tonnes of carbon - equivalent to one year's global greenhouse gas emissions.

Among other things, palm oil is used in cosmetics and to make snack foods like Pringles and KitKats. It's also used for biofuels.

Taking action in the port and in the forest

"The crew and captain did an amazing job getting us into position - calm, smooth and controlled," said Sue Connor, Greenpeace International forests campaigner on board the Rainbow Warrior. "The logging, draining and burning of Indonesia's peatland forests releases a massive amount of stored carbon back to the atmosphere. This contributes to Indonesia being the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases on the planet. That's why we're here."

We're also taking direct action in the forest.  The peat soils of Riau have the highest concentration of carbon stored per hectare of anywhere in the world.  But as the forests are cleared, drained and burned this carbon is released.  

Our solution - stop the draining. With the help of locals, activists at our Forest Defenders Camp have been damming up the drainage canals.  This will prevent the peatland from drying out and releasing carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.  

In less than three weeks time, Indonesia is also going to host a meeting in Bali where governments will decide their next steps on climate change. Commitment to zero deforestation is one of the things that needs to come out of that meeting.

Let's hope they get the message.

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