Northern Sea Route, 26 August 2013 – The Russian Coast Guard has begun a mandatory ‘inspection’ of the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise following a peaceful protest in the Arctic this morning. Greenpeace entered the Northern Sea Route on Saturday, in defiance of Russia’s attempt to ban the group’s icebreaker from entering the area.
Four members of the Russian Coast Guard boarded the ship without permission after the group launched inflatable boats with banners reading “Save the Arctic” near the oil exploration vessel Geolog Dmitry Nalivkin. The vessel is currently under contract to Russian state-owned Rosneft and US oil giant ExxonMobil as part of a joint venture (1).
"We’re here on behalf of three and a half million people who want to expose the truth behind reckless Arctic oil drilling, and yet the Russian authorities have tried to block us at every turn. Our protest is entirely safe and peaceful, while oil exploration poses a huge threat to wildlife and the fragile Arctic environment," said Christy Ferguson, Greenpeace Arctic Campaigner aboard the Arctic Sunrise.
"Offshore drilling should be banned in the Arctic, and especially in a remote sanctuary for threatened species like polar bears and narwhals where an oil spill would be impossible to clean up. We’re here to shine a light on the secretive activities of oil companies in the Russian Arctic and we won’t be intimidated into silence."
On Sunday, a spokesman for the Dutch Foreign Ministry said "Greenpeace's right to a peaceful demonstration is indisputable" and "according to the data the Netherlands has on the ship, there is no reason to doubt its technical state".
Earlier this morning, the Russian Coast Guard announced the creation of a 4 nautical mile ‘exclusion zone’ around the Geolog Dmitry Nalivkin, preventing the activists from obtaining clear images of the vessel.
"We’re in the Kara sea to expose what Rosneft, ExxonMobil and the Russian authorities are trying to hide from international scrutiny. We’re keeping an eye on an area of great natural beauty where independent observers are notably absent," said Ferguson.
Greenpeace International revealed on Wednesday that the Russian government had denied permission for the Arctic Sunrise to enter the Northern Sea Route, despite the ship having met in full the requirements for such an entry. Greenpeace International said the refusal of entry was a clear attempt by the Russian government to stifle criticism of the oil industry. Early Saturday morning the Arctic Sunrise entered the NSR.
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The UN Convention on the Law of the Sea restricts inspections of foreign ships in the Exclusive Economic Zone to certain specific situations, including suspected violations of fisheries regulations and pollution incidents. There is no valid basis for the inspection of the Arctic Sunrise.
1. The Geolog Dmitry Nalivkin is conducting seismic testing using sound waves generated by air cannons to create detailed maps of undersea areas, to determine locations for oil drilling. This kind of activity risks significant impacts on whales and other wildlife in the area and is one of the last stages of preparation before drilling. Rosneft’s drilling concession Vostochno-Prinovozemelsky-2, explored in joint operation with ExxonMobil, includes 4,500 hectares with the Russian Arctic National Park, in direct contravention of Russian environmental law.
Russian Federal Law on Protected Areas strictly forbids the exploration and extraction of natural resources within protected areas and their protective zones. The federal law “On continental shelf of the Russian Federation” forbids the granting of licences for natural resources exploration and extraction if these activities are planned within the borders of protected areas on the continental shelf.
Greenpeace International previously entered three detailed applications for entry to the Northern Sea Route Administration, clearly stating its intentions to engage in peaceful and lawful protest. All applications were rejected. The refusal is in violation of international law including the right to freedom of navigation. More details are available upon request.