Campaigners step up oil rig protest with deployment of 'survival pod'

Greenpeace prepares for month-long occupation as politicians discuss deepwater ban

Press release - September 22, 2010
Lerwick, Shetland Islands, 22nd September 2010 – Greenpeace today extended its occupation of a giant oil drilling ship anchored a mile off Shetland, in the UK, by attaching a purpose built survival pod to the anchor chain, allowing the international environmental organisation to stay in place for up to a month.

Inflatable boats launched from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza towed the 2 metre diameter pod to the 228m long Stena Carron drill ship which is being operated by the US oil giant Chevron. Two climbers who spent last night hanging above the waves in a tent suspended by ropes from the oil ship’s anchor chain then attached the pod before it was lifted into place. Anais, from Germany and Victor from Sweden have now returned safely to the Esperanza.

The deployment of the half-tonne survival pod comes the day before environment ministers from countries bordering the North Sea meet, in Bergen, Norway, under the auspices of the OSPAR Convention to discuss a German proposal to put a moratorium on new deep water oil drilling. The UK government is sending two ministers to the meeting to block the proposal.

The rig, operated by US energy giant Chevron, was meant to be sailing for a site in the Lagavulin oil field before drilling a dangerous exploratory well in 500 metres of water in the Atlantic Frontier off Shetland.

Two new activists are now secure inside the survival pod, where they are protected from the elements and have supplies to last for at least a month. Leila Deen, who is celebrating her 31st birthday today, said from inside the pod said:

“An oil disaster in the Atlantic Frontier could be even harder to stop than it was for BP in the Gulf of Mexico. But so far the UK Government refuses to face reality and stop issuing permits for ships like this to drill. That’s why we’re in this pod, hung in the anchor chain of a dangerous oil drilling ship just meters above the sea and equipped with supplies to last for a month. We will continue to block risky oil exploration until the Government puts backs a moratorium on new deep sea drilling.”

She continued:

“When the politicians meet in Norway tomorrow they can take a huge step towards taking us beyond oil and embracing a clean energy future by backing Germany’s proposal to ban deep water drilling. If they don’t, they’ll be held responsible when a BP-style disaster hits the North Sea.”

The Greenpeace team has informed the Captain of the Stena Carron that for safety reasons it will not interfere in any way with the ship’s second anchor. The team has also informed the police and Chevron that a Greenpeace safety boat will be positioned beneath the pod at all times.

The campaigners inside the pod were members of the team that stopped drilling on a controversial rig operated in arctic deep water by Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy.

Greenpeace is threatening legal action against the Cameron Government in an effort to stop the granting of new permits for deep water drilling off the UK. Last month Greenpeace lawyers wrote a ‘letter before action’ to ministers – the precursor to seeking a judicial review of the decision to push ahead with new deep water drilling before lessons from the BP disaster have been learned.

 

For more information contact:

Szabina Mozes, Greenpeace International Communication on +31 646 16 2023

Ben Stewart on the Esperanza on +47 5140 7986

For video and stills contact Melissa Thompson, Greenpeace International Video Desk: + 31 621 296899; John Novis, Greenpeace International Picture Desk: +44 (0) 7801 615 889

 

Notes:

Investigations into the Gulf of Mexico spill are still underway and the full extent of the tragedy is only now being discovered. Any clean-up operation off Shetland could be severely hampered by rough weather, making it more expensive and difficult than the operation in the US, which as of September 2010 had already cost nearly $10bn (£6.4bn), with continuing costs of $90m per day. Colder waters would also mean that oil would disperse much more slowly, and therefore cause greater damage to wildlife.

Harsh weather conditions west of the Shetlands, in what is described by the UK Government as ‘a particularly challenging location’, have so far deterred major exploitation of oil, but recently energy firms have lobbied for and received tax breaks to make production more attractive. The process by which exploration and production licenses are issued by the UK government to the industry is being ‘streamlined’. As a result, Chevron, BP and other oil majors have announced their intention to push further into the region west of Shetland, drilling wells in riskier deeper water and more remote locations than ever before.

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