The Argus

The Argus

The Argus is Greenpeace's smallest motor-ship. It mostly works in the Rotterdam (the Netherlands) harbour or along the North Sea coast.


The Argus was built in 1977 by the Swedish navy and was known then as the MS Trymbergen.

Greenpeace chartered the ship in 2000.Previously it was used for fishing excursions and navy training at sea in Norway. The vessel was converted and renamed the Argus. Its port of registry is the Leuvehaven, Rotterdam.


The Argus is made of light materials and has a double engine so it is a very fast ship. It has a fast zodiac(inflatable speedboat) on board and contains instruments to examine water and soil samples. With the Argus, Greenpeace can investigate contamination, illegal dumping of toxic waste and damage to the environment in the Rotterdam port.

In Greek mythology Argus is a giant man with eyes all over his body so he can watch everything very closely.This is symbolic of the Greenpeace Argus ship, which closely monitors pollution.


The Argus mainly campaigns against the production, use and dumping of toxic chemicals. The ship itself is treated with TBT-free paint. TBT is a very toxic chemical that prevents algae from attaching themselves to the hulls of ships.

The first action of the Argus was in September 2000. A giant stamp reading "Stop TBT" was attached to the ship's crane; it was then used to brand ships painted with TBT paint.

In February 2001, the Argus prevented the Saga Tide, a ship carrying timber cut from Canadian ancient forests, from entering the harbour of Flushing, in the Netherlands.

In May 2001, Greenpeace used the Argus to help block the heavily contaminated Rotterdam chemical harbour. Greenpeace demanded that producers AKZO, Shell and Shin Etsu cleaned the chemical harbour.

Journalists could sail to the North Sea on board of the Argus at the end of July 2001. There Greenpeace placed the first offshore windmill in the sea at the exact location where Clyde Petroleum had planned to drill for gas.

The mud in the harbours of Rotterdam, Breskens, Terneuzen and Flushing has been seriously contaminated with TBT. In October, the Argus dredged up some of this toxic mud. Part of it was dumped at Atofina in Flushing.

Personal Account

Eco Matser, head of the Greenpeace Netherlands toxics department was on board the Argus during an action against toxic mud in Flushing harbour, which was contaminated with the chemical TBT, a common ingredient in ship's paint.

He writes:

As we sailed into the harbour we received a radio message saying that we were not allowed to enter.

However, our captain, Hans, stoically answered: 'Yes, so I understand.' But entered the harbour anyway.

We dredged up the toxic mud onto the ship. When a police-boat finally arrived, we had almost finished our job. One hour later we took off.

Later that day I spoke with the harbour master. I told him why we were dredging there. First he threatened to undertake action against Greenpeace. But he also admitted the action had some advantages.

Normally the harbours have to pay for the costs of dredging. And now Greenpeace was dredging up the contaminated mud.

The actions against the chemical TBT were successful. On 5 October the UN International Maritime Organisation decided on a worldwide ban of TBT in ship paints.


Port of registry: Rotterdam
Former name: MS Trymbergen
Date of charter: 2 may 2000
Number of berths: 7
Inflatables: 1 zodiac
Helicopter capable: no
Type: patrol vessel
Built: 1977 in Lunde, Sweden
Gross tonnage: 29
Length: 19.15m
Breadth: 4.10m
Draught: 1.80m
Maximum speed: 20,5 knots
Engines: Volvo Penta (2 x 340 s.h.p.)