The greenpeace campaigners who scaled an Arctic oil rig and prevented deep water drilling off the coast of Greenland for four days have vowed to continue their campaign after being arrested by climbers believed to be from the Danish navy.
The two activists had been living in a survival pod suspended from the underside of the 53,000 tonne Leiv Eiriksson since early on Sunday morning. Their presence was stopping Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy from beginning drilling operations 180km to the west of Greenland.
Just before midnight last night, local time, a climb team operating from the rig broke into the pod – hanging 25 metres over the freezing Arctic Ocean – and arrested Luke Jones from the UK and American Hannah Mchardy, both 25 years old. Danish navy inflatable speedboats were positioned below the climbers.
The Greenpeace ship Esperanza remains near the rig, just outside a 500m exclusion zone which was declared by a Danish warship that has been on the scene since Sunday. Greenpeace International oil campaigner Ben Ayliffe is on board the Esperanza, from where he could see the navy operation to arrest Hannah and Luke. This morning he said:
“We stopped this rig from drilling for four days, which was four days in which a Deepwater Horizon-style blow-out couldn’t happen is this beautiful and fragile environment. Our climbers are in jail now, but this won’t stop us opposing the madness of drilling for oil that we can’t afford to burn and in a region where a spill would be almost impossible to clean up. This isn’t over. We must keep on pushing till the oil companies get out of the Arctic.”
Shortly before their arrest the Greenpeace climbers used a satellite telephone to call Cairn Energy and asked them to publish their oil spill response plan. Despite repeated requests Cairn has refused to make the document public, while claiming to follow stringent safety standards that require the publication of such a plan.
Shares in Cairn fell sharply on Tuesday when London traders returned after the long weekend – with media reports attributing the price drop to the presence of the Greenpeace pod.
The Leiv Eiriksson is one of just two drilling vessels operating off the coast of Greenland. The world's oil giants are watching Cairn’s rig with great interest. If it strikes oil this summer Exxon, Chevron and the other big oil companies (which have already bought up Greenland licenses) will begin drilling in the area and the Arctic oil rush will be on.
Cairn admits its drilling operation will result in at least 9,000 tonnes of chemicals being discharged directly into the waters of the Davis Strait – including 180 tonnes of red-listed chemicals (more than all annual oil drilling operations in Norway and Denmark combined).
The company also admits that it would take decades before significant profits from oil exploration flow to Greenland, while Cairn’s operations pose an immediate and grave threat to Greenland’s fisheries, which represent 88% of the island’s export economy.