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Greenpeace Signs Deal to Build "Cutting Edge" Activist Ship

The Rainbow Warrior and Witness side-by-side in the Mediterranean. © Mariza Karidi / Greenpeace
The Rainbow Warrior and Witness side-by-side in the Mediterranean. © Mariza Karidi / Greenpeace

Published Jun 6, 2024 3:10 PM by The Maritime Executive

Greenpeace has signed a contract to build what it says will be a "cutting edge" new green ship to support its activist operations at sea. Like commercial shipowners with oceangoing assets, the environmental NGO isn't aiming for 100 percent fossil-free operation at launch, but it does want to transition to fully green power "as soon as technically and logistically possible." 

The new ship will be primarily sail-powered, with 2,000 square meters of sail area. For auxiliary power, it will have battery packs and solar panels for energy storage and onboard power generation. 

Greenpeace has signed an agreement with Spain's Freire Shipyard to build the vessel, following an extensive search for a shipbuilding partner. The project's completion depends upon the NGO's fundraising timeline; Greenpeace hopes to have the funding in place and the ship delivered by 2027. 

"We will use this revolutionary new ship to chase and confront looters and polluters on the high seas," Greenpeace program director Fabien Rondal said in a statement. "We know that what we do in the next decade will shape the rest of the century. . . . That’s why we are building this new ship – it will be a call to go further, and to do more, than ever before."

Greenpeace currently operates three vessels: the Arctic Sunrise, and the motor-sailing yachts Rainbow Warrior and Witness. Arctic Sunrise is an ice-class seal-hunting ship built in 1975 and acquired by Greenpeace in 1995, and has been the platform for many of the NGO's best-known campaigns - famously including the clash with Russian coast guard forces at the Prirazlomnaya drilling project in 2013. 

Rainbow Warrior is the third Greenpeace ship to bear the same name, and was built specifically for the NGO's operations at the Fassmer yard in Germany in 2011. The vessel is large enough to support helicopter operations, and has an 1,800 horsepower diesel-electric powerplant for backup propulsion. 100,000 individual donors supported the cost of construction, many by paying for specific components. 

The aluminum-hulled motor-sailer Witness was built in 2003 and donated to Greenpeace in 2021. It is much smaller, and capable of shallow-water operations.