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Greenpeace Activists Blockade Bulker at Saint-Nazaire

greenpeace france
Image courtesy Greenpeace France

Published Jun 8, 2021 3:37 PM by The Maritime Executive

On June 7, Greenpeace activists visited the port of Saint-Nazaire, France, to block a bulker arriving from Brazil. 

The vessel, the 75,000 dwt bulker Cabrillo, is carrying a cargo of soybeans from Brazil's Cerrado region. This savannah ecosystem is less well-known than the Amazon rainforest, but it has been hit hard by the rapid expansion of agricultural activity into previously-undeveloped areas. Soybean farming is a primary driver of land use conversion in the Cerrado, and the region accounts for about 40 percent of Brazil's soy exports. Satellite imaging analysis performed by Chain Reaction Research suggests that the deforestation activity is driven not by marginal players, but by some of the biggest names in Brazilian agribusiness - and, further down the supply chain, by some of the biggest names in commodity trading and bulker chartering. 

The conversion process is nearing completion, according to advocacy group FAIRR, with only 20 percent of the biome's natural environment remaining untouched; a drought and elevated fire risk are assisting with the land-clearing process, along with staunch political support from President Jair Bolsonaro. Full monetization of the resource base appears to be possible, as only about three percent of the land is protected by legislation.

In protest of this activity, Greenpeace France activists blockaded a soybean storage warehouse at the port of Saint-Nazaire on May 31. On June 7, they followed up by blocking the passage of the Cabrillo. Activists in inflatable boats painted a call for action to "stop deforestation" in tall white letters on the side of the vessel's hull. 

"This month of May was particularly devastating for the Cerrado and the Amazon rainforest, two ecosystems affected by a number of fires never seen since 2007. In the same month, deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon reached a record level," said Greenpeace in a statement. "France cannot be an accomplice in such a tragedy: it must do everything to put an end to it. This can only happen by the end of imported deforestation."