Rainbow Warrior crew detained

Feature story - 11 December, 2003
Our flagship, the Rainbow Warrior, has been exposing the sharp end of environmental exploitation - the ship breaking beaches of India. However rather than taking action to prevent these crimes the local Indian authorities have responded by preventing the docking of the Rainbow Warrior and have now put the crew under house arrest. Read what it was like to finally dock in Mumbai from crewmember Evedien.

Crew of the Rainbow Warrior keeping their spirits up. Currently the crew is confined to the ship by port authorities.

To understand why we are currently having so many problems here in India I'll start my story a few weeks ago. We came here to show how rich countries are dumping toxic waste in disguise -- in the form of old ships headed for scrap in Alang, India. We want rich countries to clean the ships of hazardous waste before they are sent to countries like India - so making it a safer practice for the local workers and the environment. However the powerful shipbreaking industry, backed by the shipowners, has misrepresented our intentions and influenced local and regional politicians to start making problems for us. This inspite of the fact that we were at the same time cooperating with federal Indian authorities in London at a UN meeting on laws of the sea.

Leaving Alang

Nov 26: It all looked fine as we lifted the anchor, set the sails and started our voyage back to Bombay. There wasn't much wind, but it felt great to move again. We've been at anchor for about two weeks.

Nov 27: We arrived at the 25 mile zone from Mumbai. We had to wait here until our paperwork was sorted out. It's a little confusing, this paper-work story. In the maritime world there are certain rules concerning entering and clearing ports. Our last port was Bombay. The Alang port authorities didn't want to clear us to enter, but they took our paperwork anyway. Now we need our paperwork back from the Alang authorities as we are not being allowed to enter Mumbai without it.

out-of-water---no-showers.jpgNov 30: A few days passed, uneventful except for the activity of many local fishermen and a minor collision caused by another ship's captain being asleep at the helm. As the days passed things got a bit more serious: the fresh food and water ran out. A hot boat and no showers are an unpleasant combination!

Land at last!

Dec 6: I woke up early in the morning to see the sunrise of my last day at sea. It was strange to see Mumbai lying at our feet. It felt strange to see land again. We've been at sea for three and a half weeks and we were excited to enter the harbour. At the same time we all would miss the beauty and tranquillity of being on the ocean. When we got closer to shore a band was playing music and a crowd of people welcomed us with flowers and banners saying "Welcome Back". If felt good to see people caring about our work and ourselves. But although we thought this would be the end of the waiting, it was really just the beginning.

Late in the night we were given an order saying that we were not to leave the ship. All non-Indian crew were forbidden to disembark. We felt trapped and we still do. What a shame the authorities are making life hard for us and not the environmental criminals we expose.

To make our voice heard we made a banner saying "Greenpeace Persecuted for Exposing Environmental Crime". The Rainbow Warrior lies next to a bridge where lots of people are passing by, so the banner explains who we are and why we're here. It also seems that we're extremely interesting; whatever we do we have an enormous audience. It feels strange to be watched all the time. At sea I felt free even though we were surrounded by nothing but water. Now we can see people whenever we are on deck, but we cannot go ashore and actually meet them.

Luckily the people from our Indian office are able to visit us. They have been arranging everything we need. Besides new supplies, they have also invited a lot of journalists and friends to come by and visit us. We talk about the situation we're in and about the double standards of the Indian Government. I call it a double standard because while India supported our proposal for global regulation of the shipbreaking industry at a recent international meeting they then work against us in their own country. And we're here exactly for the same goal. We want global laws that obligate ship owners to make their old ships toxic-free before they send them for scrap so that the people and environment of India do not have to pay the price.

We have written a letter to send to four Ministers in India. They have the power to change this order and let us disembark. In this letter we are asking for the authorities to allow us to let some crew off the ship to go home and the new crew to join. We have all sent e-mails to our friends and families asking them to send these faxes. Our offices around the world are helping by sending these faxes and asking for meetings with the Indian embassies in their countries.

So while we are not allowed to leave the ship, we continue on with the daily work on board. We have organised for school children to come to the ship and have tours and talks with the crew. Many supporters and interested people are visiting us. So even though we are not able to go ashore we are still able to help raise awareness here in Mumbai about the importance of protecting the environment. It has been inspiring that even though the authorities are preventing us from going ashore the people of Mumbai have welcomed us and shown that despite the government's reluctance they support our work towards a clean and peaceful planet for everyone.