The Washington Post

New Rainbow Warrior docks in Baltimore

The Rainbow Warrior III, the first ship designed and built for Greenpeace, visits Broadway Pier in Fells Point. (Kim Hairston/BALTIMORE SUN)

The newest incarnation of Greenpeace’s “Rainbow Warrior,” a high-tech $32 million vessel featuring speedboats and a helicopter pad, arrived in Baltimore on Monday in the second stop of its maiden U.S. voyage.

The environmental group’s controversial ship, whose crew has confronted whalers as well as loggers over the past three decades, is traveling along the East Coast as part of Greenpeace’s anti-coal campaign.

While it is not targeting a specific coal plant in the Washington region, it will target coal-fired utilities as it heads to Southport, N.C., and Fort Lauderdale, Fla., before sailing to Brazil for June’s Rio+20 Earth Summit. The ship will be open to the public for tours Tuesday between noon and 6 p.m.

Designed in the Netherlands and constructed in Germany, the 190-foot-long ship is engineered to sail but can switch to engine-powered, diesel-electric propulsion if needed. Green and white with “Greenpeace” and the iconic rainbow and dove emblazoned on its side, the ship can accommodate a 30-person crew. It has a 180-foot-high A-frame, along with 1,350 square feet of sail, and managed up to 14 knots in speed trials.

Peter Wilcox, the ship’s captain, has worked for Greenpeace since 1981 and was in charge of the first Rainbow Warrior when it was bombed and destroyed by the French Navy in 1985, killing one crew member. The second vessel was retired last August.

When the ship was docked last week at New York City’s Chelsea Piers, Wilcox recalled how that first ship — a converted trawler — was worth only $250,000, even after an upgrade.

Wilcox said Greenpeace raised money for the ship from donations. “It won’t be profitable until we get it together, until we do some good campaigns,” he said.

He said he was looking forward to sailing down the Amazon, where the group aims to highlight the destruction of tropical rainforests.

“If the devil had to come up with a plan to destroy a vital ecosystem, he would have come up with what we’re doing to the Amazon,” Wilcox said.

Baltimore City Council member James B. Kraft (D), who welcomed the ship at Fells Point on Monday afternoon, said it would show visitors why the United States needs to switch to alternative energy. “Greenpeace’s commitment to reducing our dependence on fossil fuels and increasing awareness of environmental issues is an important part of our public discourse,” Kraft said in a statement.

But Luke Popovich, a spokesman for the National Mining Association, said opponents of coal-fired utilities fail to factor in the economic costs of shutting down these plants.

“They are this country’s most reliable source of low-cost electricity — destroy them and you expose millions of households to higher utility bills, hundreds of thousands of workers to unemployment and many basic industries to uncompetitive costs,” he said.

Juliet Eilperin is The Washington Post's White House bureau chief, covering domestic and foreign policy as well as the culture of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. She is the author of two books—one on sharks, and another on Congress, not to be confused with each other—and has worked for the Post since 1998.

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