We were on a boat

The MY Esperanza was originally built in Poland as a fire-fighting ship in the Russian port city of Murmansk.

It was launched in 2002 as the largest ship in international environmentalist group Greenpeace’s fleet. It has taken part in many of the group’s campaigns, including documenting the illegal transshipment of tuna caught in the Pacific Commons, an area closed off to tuna fishing.

The Esperanza is currently docked at the Manila South Harbor for the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meeting this week and in preparation for a survey of Philippine seas. Petra and I climbed on board over the weekend for a short press conference and a tour of the ship.

MY Esperanza at Manila South Harbor

MY Esperanza at Manila South Harbor

The ship has been retrofitted to be more environment-friendly, including

the removal or safe containment of all asbestos; fitting a special fuel system to avoid spillage; newly fitted, more efficient, diesel electric propulsion; on board recycling of waste water, leaving only clean water pumped overboard; a waste based heating system; bilge water purifiers,15 times more effective than current legislation demands; TBT-free hull paint; ammonia based refrigeration and air-conditioning rather than climate changing and ozone depleting Freon gas – the first Dutch registered vessel to be so fitted; and an environmentally and economically efficient propulsion system to reduce CO2 emissions.

But what was most impressive, being directly observable, was the equipment on board. The Esperanza has a helicopter, two large rigid-hull and four inflatable boats and probably enough high-tech equipment to put out own MV DA-BFAR to shame. To be fair, the Philippine government also has smaller and arguably badass boats for patrolling against illegal fishing, but none that come close to this:

Rigid hull boat on the Esperanza

Rigid hull boat on the Esperanza

Greenpeace helicopter and some volunteers

Greenpeace helicopter and some volunteers

I love ships. I considered being able to see them on a daily basis, even from afar, one of the perks of covering the Senate. Back when I had a working motorcycle, I’d take the longer route through Quezon Avenue and onto Roxas Boulevard just so I could see the ships on Manila Bay. There were never very many. Usually just a training ship for maritime students, some 2Go inter-island ferries and a couple of freighters.

Getting to come aboard one, especially one that can sail on the open sea for weeks at a time had me geeking out in public. “Could you give it (life in Manila) up for this?,” Petra asked over lunch on the deck. I could, actually. But just for a while. Romantic as life at sea may seem–and going after pirate fishermen does seem pretty noble and exciting–I’d probably miss the city and almost everything in it as soon as we sail out of sight of land.

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