A ship owned by the environmental group Greenpeace was rammed and holed by Navy vessels in a confrontation on the high seas today before the successful test-firing of an unarmed Trident 2 missile from a nuclear submarine.
The Trident 2 was fired from the Tennessee, cruising submerged east of Cape Canaveral, at 7:40 a.m. PST after a confrontation with Greenpeace.
"The launch was successful," said Cmdr. Deborah Burnette, a Navy spokeswoman. It was the fourth submarine test-firing of a powerful Trident 2 since March but only the second success.
Greenpeace spokesman Steve Shallhorn, reached by ship-to-shore telephone aboard the 190-foot MV Greenpeace, said the environmentalists' vessel remained afloat after being rammed earlier and was taking on water. No injuries were reported.
"We're not currently in danger of sinking but we have structural damage on the hull as well as the superstructure," Shallhorn said.
Greenpeace was shadowing the Ohio-class nuclear submarine Tennessee in a bid to disrupt the test of the most powerful weapon in the Navy's inventory.
The Tennessee left Port Canaveral shortly after midnight Sunday and was met by activists aboard the MV Greenpeace and the Mondcivitano, a 60-foot sailing vessel.
After the MV Greenpeace entered the launch danger zone off the coast of Florida, it was "shouldered" out of the area by Navy auxiliary ships, which damaged the vessel. The environmentalists then launched two small "Zodiac" inflatable rafts.
The Navy used inflatable boats to tow the two Zodiacs out of the launch safety zone, Burnette said.
But a Greenpeace spokeswoman said Navy SEAL teams cut gas lines and punctured pontoons to prevent the group from blocking the test.
Greenpeace blocked a Trident 2 test-firing in July by harassing the Tennessee with Zodiacs and refusing to leave the launch danger zone.
The Navy said it repeatedly warned Greenpeace to clear the area today. Greenpeace spokeswoman Karen Topakian confirmed the ship received the warning, but insisted the ship had a right to be in the area.