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Rainbow Warrior III, Greenpeace Campaign Ship, Launched In Germany

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The new Greenpeace boat 'Rainbow Warrior III' is anchored at the docks of the Fassmer shipyard in Berne near Bremen, northern Germany, Friday, Oct. 14, 2011. Greenpeace is launching Rainbow Warrior III, a $33 million dollar schooner that replaces its battered 50-year-old campaign vessel that's seen numerous encounters with whalers, seal hunters and illegal loggers. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein) | AP

BREMEN, Germany -- Greenpeace launched a new Rainbow Warrior on Friday, a $33 million schooner that replaces its battered 50-year-old boat, which saw numerous encounters with whalers, seal hunters and illegal loggers.

The new schooner's first mission will likely be in the United States to campaign against the burning of coal for electricity. It will then head south to the Amazon to draw attention to rainforest destruction.

The 58-meter (190-foot) ship, with two A-frame masts soaring almost as high over deck, is equipped with a helicopter pad and rapid-action release system for its inflatable boats, which in the past have carried activists into confrontations at sea.

Melina Laboucan-Massimo of the Cree nation in Canada blessed the ship with a prayer in the Cree language, using smoke from sage and braided sweetgrass as well. The 30-year-old Greenpeace activist whose grandmother was a traditional healer followed a different tradition later – breaking champagne over the hull.

The name Rainbow Warrior is drawn from an apocalyptic Cree prophesy that in the days when the Earth faces manmade devastation, mankind will join together to heal it and will be known as warriors of the rainbow.

Those dark times "are upon us," she said at the shipyard naming ceremony.

"Until my generation, my family was able to live sustainable off the land," she said, adding that now northern Alberta's watershed has been polluted, its air poisoned and its land destroyed by tar sand mines. "People and animals are being sacrificed for the benefit of a few."

Greenpeace's flagships bear the name of the first ship that was sunk by French intelligence agents in a New Zealand harbor in 1985 for opposing nuclear testing. The second Rainbow Warrior was retired this year to become a hospital ship in Bangladesh. Its last mission was to conduct radiation tests off the Japanese coast following the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster in March.

Greenpeace director Kumi Naidoo said the environmental movement is more engaged in talking to business and government leaders now than in earlier days, when it became known for its showdowns with the U.S. Coast Guard and the French navy protecting exclusion zones for nuclear testing.

While diplomacy is preferred, "we also recognize that time is running out for the planet, and Rainbow Warrior and all our activism will, if need be, celebrate the best traditions of civil disobedience and nonviolent direct action," Naidoo said in a shipboard interview.

Although the ship is expensive, Naidoo said "we will never be able to match the power of the oil, coal and gas companies." Greenpeace has an annual budget exceeding $250 million and has offices in about 40 countries.

At the ceremony, Naidoo called the schooner "the perfect ship with which to navigate the perfect storm" of ecological and economic crises, and vowed that it "will confront environmental criminals across the world."

Among their most recent actions, activists climbed an oil rig off the coast of Greenland to disrupt deepwater exploration in the sensitive Arctic. Naidoo and another protester were arrested in June, fined for trespassing and deported, but two months later the Greenland government met one of the group's demands and released Cairn Energy's oil spill plan for its Arctic drilling.

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