Polish coast guard boards Greenpeace ship in coal protest

Slideshow ( 6 images )

GDANSK (Reuters) - Armed Polish border guards boarded a Greenpeace ship blocking a delivery of coal in the port of Gdansk late on Monday and detained two activists, officials said on Tuesday.

The environmental group said it staged the protest to highlight Poland’s continued dependence on air-polluting coal and to pressure it to phase out coal as a source of energy by 2030.

Greenpeace’s Rainbow Warrior arrived in Gdansk at 1600 GMT on Monday and the ship anchored around midnight, trying to prevent a shipment of coal from Mozambique from being unloaded, according to Gdansk coastal border guard spokesman Tadeusz Gruchalla.

“We’re doing this to draw attention to the gigantic problem of Poland’s dependency on coal” Greenpeace activist Pawel Szypulski told Reuters.

The activists also painted “stop coal” on the side of the cargo vessel with the coal shipment.

A move away from coal, with mining still a major employer in southern Poland, is a divisive issue in central Europe’s largest economy, where imports almost doubled in 2018 compared to 2017 and whose government envisions only a gradual reduction in the share of coal in power production.

According to Poland’s Industrial Development Agency (ARP) coal imported from Mozambique was used by the steel industry, not the country’s power plants. Szypulski said, however, the protest was not aimed at a particular cargo or company, but was meant as a signal for the government in Warsaw to act.

The overnight intervention by a special unit was part of standard procedure after the activists refused to subject Rainbow Warrior to control, spokesman Tadeusz Gruchalla said.

Out of the 22 activists that took part in the action, two have been detained by border guard officials and were awaiting the prosecutor’s decision, Gruchalla said.

Reporting by Zuzanna Szymanska in Gdansk; Additional reporting by Krzysztof Kopec; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama