Activists from across 12 countries occupied and blocked two separate oilrigs destined to drill in the Arctic Ocean today, in protests aimed at halting oil exploration in this fragile and environmental important region.
15 Greenpeace activists climbed onto Norway’s state owned oil company Statoil’s Transocean rig in the early hours of this morning – unfurling banners reading “No Arctic Oil” and “Stop Statoil’s Arctic Race” – as it prepares to drill the world’s northern-most region.
The group of activists have said they are prepared to occupy the rig for days.
The rig is currently in transit to the Hoop area of the Barents Sea. However, when there it will not be allowed to drill into oil-bearing rock because a complaint from Greenpeace is pending.
Another group of 30 activists occupied Gazprom’s GSP Saturn in the Dutch port of IJmudien this morning, as it was on its way to the remote Pechora Sea, but were removed after five hours, with six activists arrested.
Greenpeace International Arctic campaigner Ben Ayliffe said:
The Arctic matters to us all, and promoting it demands a truly global response. We cannot let a reckless club of international oil companies hunt for the last drops as the as the ice melts away. The websites of Shell, Gazprom or Statoil might look different but their willingness to ignore the reality of oil spills and the human cost of climate change is exactly the same.
Shell has already shown just how difficult it is to work in the US Arctic, where extreme cold and remote conditions led to a series of embarrassing failures. Over five million people are now telling these companies that Arctic drilling isn’t worth the risk, either to the environment or their own reputation.
Statoil’s rig is currently on route to the Hoop region of the Barents Sea, close by to Bear Island – a unique and uninhabited wildlife sanctuary; home to a million seabirds, including some very rare species, Arctic foxes and occasionally polar bears.
It would take just one week for a nearby oil spill to engulf the island and Greenpeace are calling on Statoil and the Norwegian government to halt exploration in the region.
Bear Island is one of the few places in the region that is protected as a nature reserve and is also listed under the Ramsar convention, with its protected area extending 12 nautical miles out from the coast.
Greenpeace want to make sure the island remains protected and is not threatened by greedy oil companies.
It is calling for a ban on offshore drilling and unsustainable industrial fishing across the Arctic’s icy waters, and for a protected sanctuary to be created around the North Pole.
Today’s protests come just weeks after Greenpeace activists unsuccessfully tried to block a delivery of Russia’s first oil from its Prirazlomanaya oil platform in the Arctic Pechora Sea.
The platform had itself been briefly occupied by activists last year, before they were arrested by Russian military forces and charged with piracy, but later released under an amnesty.
The group’s Save the Arctic campaign has already seen some success with French oil company Total ruling out drilling for oil in the offshore Arctic, recognising a “spill would do too much damage to the image of the company”.
Russian oil giant Lukoil has also suggested it would not pursue offshore development in the region, while the government of Finland adopted the concept of an Arctic sanctuary as official policy.
Graphic to share: There is no Planet B