By Tim Nerrozi
The environmental group Greenpeace is facing an ecological and public relations disaster after it allowed its iconic flagship vessel to be scrapped in a Bangladeshi shipping yard.
For years, many government agencies and NGOs have argued that lax standards make the Indian subcontinent unsuitable for processing old ships. Nevertheless, Greenpeace left its famous vessel, Rongdhonu (a.k.a.) Rainbow Warrior II, for scrap in Bangladesh when it determined it could no longer use the ship, which was built in 1957.
The disposal of the Rainbow Warrior II is expected to have risked the spread of numerous toxic materials into local beach ecosystems.
The organization, which was founded to protect against environmental crimes, is now answering for unintentionally committing one of their own.
“We have made a mistake, one that we have tried to correct. We have allowed the Rongdhonu, formerly the Rainbow Warrior (II), to be scrapped on a beaching yard in Bangladesh, in a way that does not live up to the standards we set ourselves and campaigned with our allies to have adopted across the world,” said Greenpeace in a public statement on their website addressing the issue.
The company that bought the vessel, GMS, says Greenpeace is giving in to political correctness. Noting that the Bangladeshi shipyard have received a Statement of Compliance with the Hong Kong Convention for the Safe and Environmentally Sound Recycling of Ships, Dr. Nikos Mikelis, Non-Executive Director of GMS, said. “They had located the best yard in Bangladesh where their aged Bangladeshi flag ship Rongdhonu was operating. I cannot see that they had any other option that could be justified in economic terms or in terms of environmental impact. It is very unfortunate that political expediency has now Greenpeace backtracking and apologizing to their associates.”
He added: “I find it very hard to understand how is it possible for an organization such as Greenpeace, that relies on charity and therefore needs to be governed by an ethical core of principles, to ignore the damage it can inflict by aligning itself to an irrational anti-beaching policy and rhetoric.
This isn’t the first time the ship has been involved in an environmental controversy. The vessel was involved in an international incident in 2005 when it crashed into and damaged the Tubbataha Reef, a protected environmental area and World Heritage site in the Philippines.
Greenpeace ceased use of the vessel in 2011 after it was deemed unusable for international travel. The boat was sold to Bangladeshi non-profit Friendship for use as a hospital boat. It was Friendship, with the expressed approval of Greenpeace, which sent the vessel to its environmentally-damaging demise.
“When we transferred the ship to Friendship in 2011 we retained the right of veto over any final disposal plan,” said Greenpeace in their assessment. “She became a Bangladeshi ship, owned, operated and flagged and only licensed to sail inland and coastal waters. Given its condition, we presumed it would need to be decommissioned in the best way possible in Bangladesh.”
First launched for Greenpeace in 1989, the vessel quickly became the bane of shore oil operations and whaling operations as it was used to intimidate and sabotage such commercial activity. Greenpeace utilized the ship and its predecessor to protest such activities.
The vessel became Greenpeace’s iconic ship after its predecessor, the Rainbow Warrior I, was destroyed in 1985 by the French special forces off the coast of New Zealand under orders from the French government. The boat was bombed on its way to protest French nuclear testing, and Dutch photographer Fernando Pereira was killed. The attack created an international scandal.
In the past, Greenpeace has actively demonstrated against not only nuclear testing, but also off-shore oil drilling and controversial whaling practices in East Asia.
Greenpeace has faced other controversies. It was forced to fire an employee in 2014 after national and regional offices lost a total of more than $5.15 million dollars in donations by betting on fluctuating currency markets. Currency investment is not unusual for international organizations as a means of increasing financial resources, but the organization’s investment in the euro proved miscalculated.
In the same year, Greenpeace was prosecuted by the Peruvian government for vandalizing Machu Picchu as well as sacred Nazca lines with anti-fossil fuel messages.
And now it finds itself in another controversy, pitting environmental groups against poor nations.
“I find it very hard to understand how is it possible for an organization such as Greenpeace, that relies on charity and therefore needs to be governed by an ethical core of principles, to ignore the damage it can inflict by aligning itself to an irrational anti-beaching policy and rhetoric, Mikelis said. “Isn’t that what it is all about? Improved working conditions, improved workers’ safety, improved environmental protection. The alternative that is promoted by Greenpeace’s associates seeks an impossible future whereby Rongdhonu and all the end-of-life ships would be recycled in Europe, where no economic justification exists for the recycling of ocean going ships.”.
The controversies have not deterred Greenpeace. Currently it is focusing attention on their protests against Japanese whaling practices. Last month, the government of Japan announced their withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission. Sam Annesley, Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan, called the move “out of step with the international community” in an official press release.
Photo Credit : By Rama - Own work, CC BY-SA 2.0 fr, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=4599302
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