View from the Ship

Feature story - October 28, 2003
How does it feel to be on a Greenpeace ship miles off the coast, unable to dock, with helicopters buzzing overhead and Coast Guard boats circling? Find out from the crew members on board.

Update October 24, 2003 upon being informed that the Port of Miami will not allow the Esperanza to dock:

As far as the port of Miami refusing us entry is concerned, I can tell you that the crew thinks the whole thing is insane.

Along with the behavior of the Port of Miami officials, the lawsuit against Greenpeace USA by the Bush administration, is weighing heavily on our minds.

On our way through the Panama canal we got a thorough briefing. We were told us the whole story - the situation with illegal logging inBrazil, Greenpeace's cooperation with the Brazilian government, Bush's unfulfilled promises to end illegal logging, the action that Greenpeace USA is now being prosecuted for, the seizure of mahogany in ports all over the world, the up-listing of mahogany by CITES....

After the briefing there was a stunned silence. The whole crew was dumbfounded. This is a very slippery slope, and a scary thing. If whistle-blowing actions are banned in all U.S. ports, then what next? And if we no longer have the right to free speech in the United States of America, where will we have that right?


Update Oct 27, 2003 upon arriving in Miami:

Welcome to Miami! We did have quite a reception this morning when we arrived.

Even before the Esperanza had dropped anchor, the following were on scene:

  • A U.S. Coast Guard vessel with approx 20 officials on board, Customs and Immigration.
  • One U.S. Coast Guard jet
  • One marine safety helicopter which stayed on the scene circling
  • Two TV helicopters documenting the situation
  • Our charter vessel with photo and video crew
  • The Tug carrying the agent and Captain Bob Graham
  • Two (armed) law enforcement vessels from Fish and Wildlife
  • And a poor guy who was quietly trying to fish…

The Coast Guard, Customs, and Immigration boarded (at least 20 people, more than the number of crew onboard) around 11am for a security inspection and clearance.

The entire crew had to stay on the heli deck while the Coast Guard searched the ship and did a safety inspection. We were then all herded to the bridge to await Customs clearance. The whole process took about three hours. The Coast Guard told us that this was a standard inspection that they do for all foreign ships that come to Miami. If this is true, we can all rest assured that security in the Port of Miami is very tight (unless, perhaps if you're carrying illegal mahogany). All of the people that boarded the ship were very respectful and professional. There were even some comments made about what good condition the ship was in compared to many of the others that come through - all those hours spent working as a deckhand are well worth it! The Coast Guard also told Hans, our chief engineer, that the engine room looked great - a very nice compliment. So, although it was inconvenient to be held for three hours, we do understand that they are just doing their jobs.

Unfortunately, situations like the current court case prevent those of us at Greenpeace from doing our job of protecting the planet. We will not be allowed to dock in Miami, but we will stay at anchor in the harbor for the next week and do our best to raise awareness about the court case and the threat it poses to our First Amendment rights to free speech and our right to nonviolently protest activities that endanger the health of our planet.