Greenpeace boards ship to prevent offshore oil drilling

Greenpeace activists shut down offshore drilling by a British oil company at a controversial site in the Arctic after four climbers began an occupation of the rig just after dawn on Tuesday.

Greenland’s prime minister has accused Greenpeace of threatening the safety of oil workers and the environment by forcing the rig to shut down.

The campaigners said the four protesters evaded a flotilla of armed Danish navy and police boats, which have been guarding the rigs in Baffin Bay off Greenland since the Greenpeace protest ship Esperanza arrived last week.

The rigs are operated by the Edinburgh-based oil exploration company Cairn Energy, which last week prompted worldwide alarm among environmentalists after disclosing it had found the first evidence of oil or gas deposits under the Arctic.

Several multinational oil companies, including Exxon, Chevron and Shell, are waiting for Greenland’s permission to begin deep-sea drilling in the Arctic’s pristine waters.

Campaigners fear a dangerous rush to exploit one of the world’s last major untapped reserves in one of its most fragile locations.

The United States Geological Survey last year estimated there may be 90-billion barrels of oil and 50-trillion cubic metres of gas across the Arctic.

The campaign group said: “At dawn this morning our expert climbers in inflatable speedboats dodged Danish Navy commandos before climbing up the inside of the rig and hanging from it in tents suspended from ropes, halting its drilling operation.

“The climbers have enough supplies to occupy the hanging tents for several days. If they succeed in stopping drilling for just a short time then the operators, Britain’s Cairn Energy, will struggle to meet a tight deadline to complete the exploration before winter ice conditions force it to abandon the search for oil off Greenland until next year.”

The occupation comes after a nine-day standoff between Greenpeace and the Danish navy, which has sent its frigate Vaedderen to the area, deploying elite Danish commandos on high-speed boats to patrol a 500m exclusion zone around the rigs.

Two weeks ago week the Danes warned the Esperanza it would be forcibly boarded and its captain arrested if it breached the security zone. After Greenpeace launched its helicopter to take photographs, the security area was extended to include a 1 800m high air exclusion zone.

Greenpeace argues the Arctic drilling programme is extremely perilous because of the sea ice and intense weather conditions in the region, and claims it is one of the 10 most dangerous drilling sites in the world. The Baffin Bay area is known as “iceberg alley”.

Last week, it filmed a support vessel trying to break up an iceberg using high pressure hoses.

It says the risks posed by this operation go “far beyond” the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico; in the Arctic an oil spill would destroy the region’s vulnerable and untouched habitats, while the cold water would prevent any oil from quickly breaking up. Any emergency operation to tackle a disaster would encounter huge technical and logistical problems in such a remote area. —

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever. But it comes at a cost. Advertisers are cancelling campaigns, and our live events have come to an abrupt halt. Our income has been slashed.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years. We’ve survived thanks to the support of our readers, we will need you to help us get through this.

To help us ensure another 35 future years of fiercely independent journalism, please subscribe.

Severin Carrell
Severin Carrell works from Edinburgh, Scotland. Scotland editor for The Guardian. DMs are open _ St Kilda image (c) Murdo Macleod Severin Carrell has over 15755 followers on Twitter.
Advertisting

Nehawu launches urgent court bid over protective gear for health...

The health workers’ union says the government has rebuffed its attempts to meet about mitigating risks to workers

Stay at home, Cyril said. But what about the homeless?

In Tshwane, forcing homeless people off the street resulted in chaos and the abuse of a vulnerable population. In Durban, a smooth, well-planned operation fared far better

Press Releases

Everyone’s talking about it. Even Kentucky

Earlier this year South African fried chicken fast-food chain, Chicken Licken®, launched a campaign for their wallet-friendly EasyBucks® meals, based on the idea of ‘Everyone’s talking about it.’

New energy mix on the cards

REI4P already has and will continue to yield thousands of employment opportunities

The online value of executive education in a Covid-19 world

Executive education courses further develop the skills of leaders in the workplace

Sisa Ntshona urges everyone to stay home, and consider travelling later

Sisa Ntshona has urged everyone to limit their movements in line with government’s request

SAB Zenzele’s special AGM postponed until further notice

An arrangement has been announced for shareholders and retailers to receive a 77.5% cash payout

20th Edition of the National Teaching Awards

Teachers are seldom recognised but they are indispensable to the country's education system

Awards affirm the vital work that teachers do

Government is committed to empowering South Africa’s teachers with skills, knowledge and techniques for a changing world