Activists board ship off Spain in palm oil protest: Greenpeace

Greenpeace said Saturday six of its activists boarded a tanker off Spain loaded with "dirty" palm oil to protest against a nature-damaging commodity found in everything from soap to biscuits.

Activists board ship off Spain in palm oil protest: Greenpeace
A file photo showing a Greenpeace banner during a 2007 protest at the port of Rotterdam. Photo: AFP

The activists, from countries including Indonesia, the scene of mass deforestation for palm oil plantations, were held by the captain of the ship after they boarded at sea, the NGO said in a statement.

Prior to that, “they unfurled banners reading 'Save our Rainforest' and 'Drop Dirty Palm Oil',” it added.

The ship was travelling from Indonesia, the world's top palm oil producer, to Rotterdam in the Netherlands, the NGO said.

The captain has turned the ship around and is heading to Spain, it added, where he intended to hand the activists over to authorities.

When contacted by AFP, the Guardia Civil police force said it had no knowledge of the matter.

According to Greenpeace, the ship is carrying “dirty palm oil” products, or those linked to mass deforestation.

Palm oil is a key ingredient in many everyday goods.

Growing demand for the commodity has led to an industry boom in Indonesia.

Green groups have long accused palm oil companies of rampant environmental destruction.

Many firms have made “no deforestation” pledges after coming under pressure, but activists say such commitments are hard to monitor and frequently broken.

As well as the destruction of rainforest, clearing peatland to make way for palm oil plantations causes enormous environmental damage.

Huge amounts of carbon are released when peat is drained or burnt, exacerbating climate change, according to environmentalists.

Peat fires are also difficult to put out and a key factor in outbreaks of toxic smog which choke Southeast Asia almost every year.

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Spain seizes Greenpeace oil protest ship

UPDATED: Spain said on Wednesday it impounded a Greenpeace ship because the crew defied orders to leave a restricted zone where they were protesting against oil exploration off the Canary Islands.

Spain seizes Greenpeace oil protest ship
A Greenpeace spokesperson stated that the ship's captain, a US national, "cannot move until a €50,000 ($63,000) bail is paid." Photo: Remko de Waal/ANP/AFP
It was the latest incident involving Greenpeace's campaign boat Arctic Sunrise, which was seized by Russian commandoes in September 2013 during a protest against Arctic oil drilling.
In a protest near the Canaries on Saturday "the Arctic Sunrise violated the exclusion zone and ignored instructions by the (Spanish) navy boat Relampago to abandon the zone," Spain's Defence Minister Pedro Morenes told parliament on Wednesday.
"It launched boats into the sea in order to harass and to try to board the Rowan Renaissance" — the ship that Spanish oil company Repsol is using to explore for oil and gas, he said.
Spain's public works ministry said authorities impounded the boat on Tuesday at the port of Arrecife on the island of Lanzarote and would hold it until a bond was paid.
Greenpeace said the captain, a US national, was being refused release until the €50,000 ($63,000) bond was paid.
On Saturday, three navy boats rammed vessels in which Greenpeace activists were approaching Repsol's ship, video distributed by Greenpeace showed.
An Italian protester fell in the water and was injured, Greenpeace said. It said its activists were protesting peacefully.
The beaches of the Canary Islands, an Atlantic archipelago off northwest Africa, are a popular draw for tourists from Britain, France and elsewhere.
The Dutch-flagged Arctic Sunrise was boarded and seized in September 2013 as it protested at operations by Russian gas giant Gazprom. It was held until June 2014, prompting international protests.