Activists from Greenpeace in the UK have conducted a publicity stunt against Volkswagen as the group attempts to turn people away from diesel cars in the wake of the company’s ongoing emissions cheating scandal.

A claimed 25 volunteers in kayaks and boats surrounded the 23,000-tonne cargo ship Elbe Highway, delivering German-made Euro 6-compliant VW diesels (and plug-in hybrid petrol-electric cars) into the UK. Some then boarded the vessel, took a selfie, and are refusing to disembark until VW “commits to take its toxic cars back to Germany”. 

Greenpeace proudly operates diesel ships such as The Esperanza.

They’ve been at sea for more than 24 hours now, and as of an hour or so ago, according to the Twitter-sphere, have kept the ship at sea and away from port. It's not quite clear how. 

Meanwhile a further 40 scaled the fences at Sheerness port in Kent – the intended destination of the ship – “and gained access” (in other words, broke-in) to the vehicle park, where several thousand VW cars await distribution to suppliers.

The activists removed the car keys to immobilise the vehicles, lifted the bonnets and labelled the engines with messages from 8000 people, including many car owners, calling on VW to ditch diesel.

Volkswagen commented to UK media:

"The ship contains a variety of Volkswagen Group vehicles, including petrol, diesel and plug-in hybrid models. The diesel vehicles, which are the subject of the protest, meet strict Euro-6 standards.”

In a bid to appear less radical than their actions suggest, Greenpeace has named some of the volunteers. They include a doctor from London, a trade union worker from Herfordshire, a hostel support worker from Wales, a baker from Dorset and a cameraman from Oxfordshire.

You can read all our coverage of the Volkswagen diesel emissions saga here, which has cost it billions in fines and seen key staff deservedly prosecuted. As we reported last week, VW wants to be the world’s leading electric car-maker, projecting three-million annual EV sales across the Group by 2025.