Greenpeace Activists Scale Gazprom Rig in Arctic
- By Roland Oliphant
- Aug. 24 2012 00:00
- Last edited 21:58
A team of Greenpeace International activists climbed the side of Gazprom's Prirazlomnaya oil platform in the Arctic early Friday morning in an effort to disrupt its operations.
Six activists including Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo set off at 4 a.m. in three inflatable speedboats launched from the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise and scaled the platform via mooring lines, Greenpeace announced this morning.
Speaking on Friday mornng by satellite phone from his position in a flimsy tent on the side of the rig, Naidoo said the platform’s crew had “mostly been friendly — they’ve been talking to us, asking why we are here and so on.”
He added that there had been two threatening bursts from a water cannon.
Late Friday, 15 hours after the activists began their occupation, they left the rig after complaining of being bombarded by pieces of metal and water hoses from the platform, the group said on Twitter.
The campaigners, who are seeking to draw attention to the dangers of drilling for oil in the arctic and the impact of global warming on the region, were divided into two groups of three and said they had brought enough food with them “to last several days.”
GazpromNeftShelf, which operates the platform, said the activists had violated a 500-meter restricted area around the facility but were invited to climb onto the platform and hold "constructive dialogue."
“Today representatives of Greenpeace violated the 500-meter navigational safety zone of the Prirazlomnaya sea platform and with the help of climbing equipment hung from its side. They were invited to come onto the platform for constructive dialogue, but they refused, saying they would ‘hang onto the platform,'" a GazpromNeftShelf spokeswoman said in emailed comments.
She added that all work at the platform was being carried out according to plan and did not comment on plans to evict the protestors.
The occupation by Greenpeace activists was the headline act in a series of announcements criticizing oil and gas development on Russia’s Arctic shelf.
Naidoo said the campaigners felt a moral imperative to commit the stunt, despite their inevitable arrest.
“Even though we will be arrested — even though it is quite a thing for us to come here and do this — we had to take this position morally,” he said.
Naidoo said earlier Friday in a statement emailed to journalists, "Like Shell's reckless plans to drill in Alaska, it's not a question of if an oil spill will happen, but when. The only way to prevent a catastrophic oil spill from happening in this unique environment is to permanently ban all drilling now."
Prirazlomnaya is the world's first ice-resistant oil platform. When it begins drilling it will make Gazprom the first-ever company to commercially produce oil on the Arctic shelf.
Environmental groups have repeatedly criticized Gazprom for failing to publish their full oil spill response plan for the platform, saying that no technology yet exists to clean up oil spills in icy conditions and that even a small accident could be catastrophic for the Arctic ecosystem.
Last week, Naidoo visited Moscow to present joint research commissioned by Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund suggesting that in the event of a spill, oil could spread 300 kilometers from the platform in five days.
Greenpeace also published a letter from the Emergency Situations Ministry that it said proved Gazprom’s oil spill response plan for the rig, which by law must be renewed every five years, had expired.
Gazprom Neft Shelf has rejected claims that the platform is a threat to the environment, saying the platform's performance last winter proved its reliability and that professional emergency response crews are on duty 24 hours a day.
Earlier this week, delegates to a Russian Arctic Indigenous Peoples’ conference hosted by the Save the Pechora Committee, Iz’vatas, and Greenpeace in Usinsk signed a motion calling for a halt to off-shore oil development in the region.