"We've taken the action today because Australia is on track to almost double its coal exports in the next decade," Emma Giles, one of six activists who boarded the boarded the coal hauler from inflatable boats, told The Guardian newspaper Wednesday. "It is time to slow down the coal boom."
A Greenpeace report released in January says that Australia's plans to more than double coal exports in about 10 years would add 900 million tons of carbon a year to the atmosphere.
The Australian Coal Association, a national lobbying group, denounced the Greenpeace stunt, calling it "irresponsible" and "dangerous" and said it was an attempt to hijack the Australian economy.
ACA on Wednesday released a report from Melbourne's RMIT University, which says that about 180,000 Australian jobs depend directly or indirectly on the coal sector, and the sector's total economic contribution -- $44 billion this year -- had increased nearly 20 percent from six years ago.
Every extra million dollars of output in coalmining fosters 3.2 extra jobs in associated industries, the report says.
"This is an ideologically driven campaign to stop economic development that will devastate communities across Australia," ACA Chief Executive Officer Nikki Williams said of the Greenpeace action.
"It is a reality that coal for power generation and steel manufacturing has built our modern Australia and is now helping other countries to improve the quality of life of their people by reducing energy poverty," Williams was quoted as saying by The Guardian. "This indisputable fact is not widely understood."
"The long-term outlook for coal remains strong," Williams said. "We need to ensure that our sector remains internationally competitive to ensure that Australia benefits from the sustainable development of its coal resources."
The Queensland Resources Council said the focus should be on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from coal-fired power generation instead of crippling Queensland's leading income earner.
"Closing down Australia's coal industry "will simply surrender our 5 percent global market share to competitors such as Indonesia and South Africa who are not investing in low emission technology development like the Australian black coal industry," Queensland Resources Council Chief Executive Michael Roche said in a statement.
Samsun Logix Corp., the owner of the vessel, the MV Meister, loaded from Abbot Point in Queensland, has told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. the captain is under no orders to stop or turn around.