44 Greenpeace activists arrested for blocking Russian Arctic oil tanker

Arctic oil tanker

80 Greenpeace activists attempt to hail a ship carrying the first shipment of oil from the Russian Arctic. Courtesy of: Greenpeace, 2014

In another bid to take a stand against Arctic oil drilling, 44 Greenpeace activists, including seven imprisoned in Russia last year, were arrested in the Netherlands as they attempted to block the delivery of the first Arctic oil shipment.

The shipment came from the very rig that 28 Arctic protesters and two freelance journalists were arrested and detained for two months for protesting late in 2013.

This time the group of 80 activists used paragliders, climbers, a fleet of boats and inflatables to block the shipment as it moved through one of the busiest harbours in the world in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

In a blog, Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo wrote:

We again find ourselves facing-off against the rig and what it produces. We do this because it represents the reckless exploitation of the Arctic and the lengths that Big Oil will go to protect their pockets – be it lying about the readiness to deal with an inevitable Arctic oil spill or the illegal jailing of activists who shows the world that profit, for some, will always trump the environment.

While the Marshall Islands sink, tornadoes tear up the Midwest in the USA and the Himalayas themselves begin to crumble, at every altitude, and every place on our fragile planet, we are seeing the terrible harm that companies like Shell and Gazprom perpetuate upon the environment.

Greenpeace said last week’s protests were a serious attempt to prevent the Gazprom tanker Mikhail Ulyanov from entering the port.

The latest protest against Arctic drilling was met with a very different reaction to those staged in Russia last year.

Last Thursday, 10 Dutch armed anti-terror police boarded the group’s Rainbow Warrior ship outside Rotterdam port, arresting 44 activists.

While they were taken to several Rotterdam police stations, and the Rainbow Warrior towed ashore, the ship and most of the protesters were released without charge within hours.

This is a stark contrast to the events on September 2013, when 20 armed Russian navy commandos boarded the group’s Arctic Sunrise icebreaker, towed it 200 miles to Murmansk and jailed the 30 people on board for more than two months on charges of piracy and hooliganism.

Greenpeace is calling for an all-out ban on offshore Arctic oil drilling, both in Russia and elsewhere in the world.

It argues that a spill in this region would devastate its fragile habitat.

It has strongly criticised Shell, BP, Statoil, Gazprom and other Russian energy companies that have all declared an interest in drilling in the Arctic.

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