Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006
Greenpeace protest against British nuclear fuels shipment to Japan
Photo: Nick Cobbing

Stopping Mox Boxes

Fukushima, Japan

Greenpeace sea action in Japan against shipment of British nuclear fuel

Japanese Maritime Safety Commandos were briefed to expect terrorists. Instead they were faced with Greenpeace's 'MV Artic Sunrise' and a team determined not to let British-made nuclear fuel dock in Japan without a fuss. After four weeks at sea, photographer Nick Cobbing jumped into a Greenpeace dinghy for the final cat and mouse. He sent this e-mail via ISDN Sat. phone.

27th September 1999, also Squall Download 1, Oct/Nov 1999, pp. 12-13.

.....Went to bed last night feeling crap and bored, headache, nothing happening, rumour that it'll maybe kick off at 4AM so set my alarm, had these false alarms before, so don't take it too seriously. woken at 3.30AM by (Dave) the action coordinator, asked to get shit together and be ready to go now, arrive on deck half dressed with cameras dangling. Greeted by 7-8 coastguard ships and motor-launches surrounding us with searchlights bouncing in all directions through the darkness loads of engine noise and smoke, lights bobing up and down in all directions. Looks and sounds like an eviction only more scary and i'm on a ship, not a rooftop, nowhere to run. Could see riot police behind shields on the bows of all the nearest boats, shouting inaudible stuff up at us via loud hailer, through the engine noise.

Some of the riot police duck right down, so we see only a row of upright shields with nothing but little eye holes at the top. A few of them are drawing right up close underneath the ship, it's clear that they are trying to stop us from reaching the harbour where it's confirmed that the plutonium ships will dock this morning. Act/coordinator says that me and the video guy are first to go in the water in an inflatable with him driving as we planned, looks like we're gonna get nicked as soon as we hit the water. Suicide mission i think to myself, my mad Aussie cameraman team mate, 'Moose' is jumping up and down with excitement, in his element (this guy usually does war-zone stuff for the beeb).

For some reason, i'll never know why, after our inflatable reaches the water we're able to speed away in the right direction without these Japanese SAS-types jumping on us immediately, they just follow at high speed. chasing us around, driving in front of us and blocking our path whenever we try to cut through a gap, meanwhile our other two boats are launched on the other side taking four people with 'No Plut.' flags and stuff towards the Mox/Plut ship that is now approaching the harbour. It's starting to get light, but barely enough of it to take decent pictures, plus the spray and the boat banging up and down and then cornering at speed. This tests me, have never done anything like this before. five of their boats concentrate on us, probably 'cos they can see that we're trying to get cameras to the plu. ships, making it impossible for us to get through their line and reach the action, they come up close as if trying to grab us but don't seem to know how to finish it.

Guys in orange boiler suits and yellow helmets, they hold their hands up and shout at us to stop, looking surprised when we ignore them. This chase continues for a while, we take in one circle of the ship and drop film and video tape into a bucket. That point i thought we 'we're nicked', certain of it, no way we were going to get back to the ship and get hoisted up the 20ft or so to safety, expecting to have five demented Japanese ninjas pull me off any moment, thinking about miso and rice and who i will share my cell with. Somehow we get back below the Sunrise again and thanks to some nifty boat driving, quick people on the crane and shit loads of luck we get winched to safety. The other two boats had been hoisted up onto the deck too, everybody back in one piece. Then darkroom, chemicals, scanning and transmitting whilst the ship heads back away from the port towards relative safety of international waters, locked in our media container in the hold, expecting the ship to be boarded at any moment, listening for the noises outside.

The captain holds it all together keeps cool, despite the radio messages telling him to stop, "Arctic Sunrise!, Arctic Sunrise!, stop now for imediate boarding and inspection" The other TV/Stills crew in the helicopter got pics of the two smaller inflatables that reached the bows of The Pacific Teal with their 'stop plu.' flags as it was moving into the harbour to dock in front of the power station. Got 2 or 3 reasonable pics in spite of the conditions, a couple of mine and several that the other guy took from the helicopter were sent out, eventually syndicated along with the video via AFP, AP, Reuters. The video footage was something else, can see it all from the air, boats trails criss-crossing through the frame. Everybody here is made up, after so many weeks of sitting around and after all that rough weather. Campaigner is over the moon......Apparently the shots have been used widely in Japan.

Related Articles
Western Wast Fuels East Explosion - Japan receives UK nuclear fuel a week before worst nuclear power accident - Squall Download 1, Oct/Nov 1999

Useful Links