DATE: February 11, 1998
REPLY TO ATTN. OF: Safety, Environment and Security Director
SUBJECT: "Pacific Swan" Greenpeace Incident
TO: Deputy Administrator
1. As requested by BNFL officials, a meeting was held to discuss the Greenpeace boarding of the "Pacific Swan" on February 6, 1998. Present were: Messrs. Malcom Miller, Gavin Carte and Paul Kay, BNFL; Alferez Isidro FIorez, and Lt. Carlos Quiroz, SMN; Mr. J. W. Cornelison, Acting AD; Mr. J. E. Ferrara, A.E; Mr. Rene Van Hoorde, MR, Mr. Carlos Alvarado, MR, Capt. George Markham, MRT; Mr. Charles Morris, ES; Mr. Rodman Brayton, Mr. James Kraemer, and Mr. Rolando Winberg, ESC. A summary of the meeting follows:
-- Initial discussion centered on actions taken by the Servicio Maritimo Nacional (SMN) assigned the mission of surveillance outside the breakwater and combined escort of the vessel. with the PCC security launch to the locks. At 1815 hrs. Feb. 5 SMN requested the Cristobal Signal Station, to provide the ETA of the "Pacific Swan" at the breakwater. SMN was informed the vessel would be passing the breakwater sometime after 0100 hours February 6. SMN's patrol boats PT 203 and PT 305 were in Limon Bay and were instructed to remain in anchorage alpha (inside breakwater, west side of the fairway). Around 2000 hours Lt. Quiroz, SMN OIC, requested an updated ETA and informed the port entry coordinator that his boats would escort the "Pacific Swan" up to Gatun Locks. At approximately 0350 hours, SMN PT 305 again contacted the Cristobal Signal Station regarding the location of the "Pacific Swan". He was informed that the vessel was eight miles from the breakwater entrance and proceeding to the pilot pickup point. At approximately 0410 hours the Cristobal Signal Station informed SMN PT 305 that the "Pacific Swan" was five miles from the breakwater entrance and was the first vessel approaching.
-- The "Pacific Swan" was logged as passing the breakwater entrance at 0423 hours. Boarding by the pilot, Captain Constable, the canal security transit guard (Mr. James Kraemer plus two) and Dr. Freddy Chen, began at 0427 hours on the starboard side of the ship. At approximately 0515 hours, the ship's master informed the pilot that there were three Greenpeace members chained to the bow mast and that they had boarded on the port side shortly before the pilot laun h had come alongside the "Pacific Swan". At 0530 hours Mr. Kraemer, who was located on the deck of the vessel with Canal Security and Panama Police units observing the sides of the vessel, was informed that Greenpeace was aboard the vessel and had chained themselves to the forward mast.
-- Canal Operations instructed the pilot to continue the transit rather than anchoring the ship in order to maintain the schedule, and for safety reasons to remove the Greenpeace protesters in the locks where more resources would be available. The vessel entered the locks West side at 0545 hours and was locked to the upper chamber where it was held by the locomotives after the chamber was filled around 0700. The ship was thereafter boarded by canal security and police personnel who were able to peacefully remove the Greenpeace protesters from the bow cross tree. The Greenpeace demonstrators did not resist and voluntarily removed their shackles and were brought down and disembarked from the vessel without any further incident at 0725 hours. The incident resulted in a delay of about 44 minutes to the vessel/canal. About 20 members of the press boarded the vessel at Gatun and made partial transit to Gamboa. The "Pacific Swan" cleared the canal at 1551 hours without further incident.
-- BNFL was asked to explain the instructions given to the ship's crew and company policy regarding unauthorized boardings such as subject incident. Captain Miller, Chief' Operations Officer, explained that the crew was provided a threat assessment prior to the voyage and that standing instructions were not to try and repel boarders but to assist those illegally boarding the ship "for safety/liability purposes". Furthermore, it is BNFL's policy to tightly secure the ship internally, (access to areas of the ship where the hazardous cargo is stored were secured) with no great concern for the external security of the vessel or boarding by unauthorized personnel. The "Pacific Swan" did not have a marine security escort when it left Europe, but expect she will be escorted by the Japanese Coast Guard upon arrival there.
-- Ship's deck watch saw the Greenpeace protesters' boat come alongside the port side of the vessel, but "thought they were the PCC security element dressed in gray", and permitted them to board the vessel, proceed to the bow, and climb the forward mast, without being stopped.
2. Following a discussion of the facts, the Deputy Administrator closed the meeting with a summary of the facts involving the "Pacific Swan" incident, which were generally agreed to by all present.
a. Greenpeace boarding took place at/or near the breakwater at the same time or., just before the PCC pilot launch come alongside and not outside the breakwater as reported by Greenpeace representatives to the media. Lighting on deck was nonexistent on the port side where Greenpeace boarded although there were lights on the starboard side.
b. Communication, command and control between the SMN patrol boats and PCC security, was dysfunctional. Neither the pilot, the Pacific Swan transit guard or the PCC security escort launch saw the SMN patrol boats at or near the breakwater, and they did not appear until the vessel reached the locks.
c. Lack of timely communications between the vessel's master and the PCC pilot/security chief precluded any immediate action against the Greenpeace protesters. This information was not immediately conveyed to the pilot by the master but was delayed about 45 minutes.
d. The "Pacific Swan's" master was admittedly concerned more with the navigation of the vessel through the breakwater than with the fact that Greenpeace had boarded his ship.
3. The "Pacific Swan" transit and Greenpeace incident has been a learning experience for the canal. The arbitrary transit restrictions imposed on the vessel interrupted the normal canal traffic flow. We should keep this in mind for future BNFL transits through the Panama Canal. In this respect, we will develop a SOP/OPLAN for joint operations with the SMN.
Director, Safety, Environment and Security
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