Protesters Ian Cohen and Stuart Lennox hold a banner near the plutonium ship Pacific Teal.
Their fears may have been justified, for today the Nuclear Free
Seas Flotilla intercepted the plutonium transport and sent a
powerful anti-nuclear message around the world.
"We may only be 10 boats but we carry the wishes and demands of
millions of people, who want an end to the monstrous nuclear
industry worldwide," said flotilla protester Henk Haazen.
For almost a week the small yachts of the Nuclear Free Seas
Flotilla sailed across the Pacific to demonstrate the huge public
opposition to the dangerous nuclear shipment. On Sunday, July 21
the flotilla of ten boats moved into position in the Tasman Sea,
halfway between Australia and New Zealand.
The two nuclear freighters, carrying a load of highly dangerous
nuclear MOX (mixed oxides of plutonium and uranium) from Japan to
the UK, seemed reluctant to face the full glare of publicity. They
drastically reduced their speed for the first time since leaving
Japan, temporarily halting their passage through the Tasman Sea --
an apparent attempt to avoid the Nuclear Free Seas Flotilla.
Greenpeace and the flotilla expected the two armed UK nuclear
freighters to try to sneak through the flotilla protest line during
the dead of night. And that's exactly what happened.
When darkness fell the nuclear freighters sped up and at
midnight, local time, they attempted to pass through the flotilla's
protest line between Lord Howe and Norfolk Islands.
But the nuclear transport vessels were detected as they passed
between the protest vessels SV Tiama and Fio-oko. The protesters
launched an inflatable to shadow the ship, and at dawn they caught
up with the nuclear transports. Two swimmers, Australian
parliamentarian Ian Cohen and Stuart Lennox of Tasmania, were
dropped into the water. They held up a banner that read "Nuclear
Free Pacific" as the two nuclear ships steamed past.
"I wanted to make sure that there was no doubt in these shippers
minds that they are not welcome in this region," said Cohen, who
says he came there to represent Australians who express a strong
The flotilla boats also radioed their message of protest to the
Opposition is reaching a crescendo in nations along the
shipment's route. On July 17, the government of Vanuatu roundly
condemned the shipment, and the next day the Fijian prime minister
used a regional summit to express his outrage and opposition "to
those who are so willing to put the Pacific and our peoples at
risk." Then the 78 nations at the African-Caribbean-Pacific summit
condemned and isolated Japan and the UK for their shameful nuclear
waste MOX shipment in the summit's final declaration.
The shipment of MOX is being returned to the UK because its
producers, the government-owned British Nuclear Fuels (BNFL),
falsified critical safety data on the MOX and the Japanese refused
to use it.