Do security measures only apply to some organisations?
Most of you will, I suspect, be aware of the scandalous scenes some ten days ago at the port of Sheerness in Kent, southeast England. In case your memories need refreshing, let me remind you of what took place. A “K” Line European Sea Highway Services (KESS) car carrier, the Elbe Highway, was delivering a cargo of Volkswagens from Germany when it was boarded in the Thames estuary by some 25 Greenpeace activists in an attempt to prevent the vehicles from being off-loaded at the port.
Greenpeace, of course, was protesting that the diesel vehicles were ‘toxic’ and that the recent introduction of so-called ‘real-world’ emissions tests as the solution to the air pollution crisis are flawed. A recently-published Greenpeace investigation purportedly revealed that the new tests could still be under-reporting diesel cars’ real emissions and may not stop vehicles from polluting over the legal limits when driven in urban traffic. The activists demanded that the vehicles were returned to Germany and one of them said, “We’re here to block VW imports on behalf of all of the children who are the most acutely affected by the health impacts of diesel fumes. VW’s polluting vehicles are adding to a public health emergency harming thousands of people.”
Meanwhile, 41 other activists had scaled perimeter fences at the port and, having gained access to the vehicle parc, were busy confiscating car keys and opening bonnets to leave derogatory message on the vehicles’ engines.
Now I’m not taking sides in the argument over whether the latest diesel engines are toxic or not. What I am appalled by is how easily the Greenpeace activists were able to board a ship at sea - does the word piracy not apply here? - and how equally easy it appears to have been to gain access to one of the UK’s major ports. All this at a time when security measures have been tightened in order to protect us from terrorist attacks. I am equally concerned by the government’s reluctance to condemn the actions. Two activists were arrested on board the Elbe Highway but there has been a palpable wall of silence about the whole affair. Could it be that certain organisations or endeavours are virtually immune from criticism? If so, whatever the rights and wrongs of their cause, this is a grievous error. The law is the law and must be upheld and we must ensure that our security measures are capable of withstanding the, doubtless well-meaning, activities of a bunch of environmental protesters.
Simon Duval Smith
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