Greenpeace ship to encounter the first shipment of Arctic oil

April 30, 2014

The Mikhail Ulyanov oil tanker on its way from the Prirazlomnaya oil drilling platform in the Pechora Sea to a European harbour. It is the first transport of Arctic offshore oil from Russia to Europe. The platform is operated by Russian state owned energy company Gazprom and is the first to begin producing oil from icy offshore waters in the Arctic. Der Oeltanker Mikhail Ulyanov im Nordatlantik auf dem Weg von der Oelplattform Prirazlomnaya in einen Europaeischen Hafen. Es ist der erste Transport arktischen Offshore-Oels nach Europa. Die Plattform wird von Gazprom betrieben.

© Dmitrij Leltschuk / Greenpeace

The rumors are true, Greenpeace has sent the Rainbow Warrior III to find the Mikhail Ulyanov, a Russian oil tanker carrying a shipment from the first rig to ever extract oil from the Arctic.

That rig, called Prirazlomnaya, is the same one that activists aboard another Greenpeace boat, the Arctic Sunrise, confronted last year. After that action, the 28 people aboard the boat (dubbed the Arctic 30) were incarcerated in Russia on charges that ranged from piracy to hooliganism for 100 days, sometimes in harsh conditions. Those charges were later dropped. [caption id="attachment_26275" align="aligncenter" width="600"]Anne Mie Roer Jensen, one of the Arctic30 activists, navigating on the Bridge of the Rainbow Warrior 3 during the hunt for the Mikhail Ulyanov. Anne Mie Roer Jensen, one of the Arctic 30 activists, navigating on the Bridge of the Rainbow Warrior 3 during the hunt for the Mikhail Ulyanov.[/caption]

Some of the Arctic 30 are aboard the Rainbow Warrior III and are playing active roles in the search. Among them are Captain Peter Wilcox, who is at the helm of the ship, just where he was on the Arctic Sunrise.

Drilling in the Arctic is a terrible idea. Given the harsh conditions and the historic carelessness of the oil industry, experts believe a spill there is inevitable. If you think clean-up is impossible in relatively accessible waters like the Gulf of Mexico (where, after the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, only a tiny percent of the oil was recovered), then imagine what a blowout would do in the Arctic? Forget about open water imagine hundreds of millions of gallons of oil slipping beneath Arctic ice.

[caption id="attachment_23144" align="aligncenter" width="600"]A Shell mobile drilling unit is towed in Alaskan waters after the company's carelessness, tax dodging, and rough seas foiled its operations. A Shell mobile drilling unit is towed in Alaskan waters after the company's carelessness, tax dodging, and rough seas foiled its operations.[/caption]

And then, of course, there's climate change. The oil industry is sparing no expense and going to the most difficult, most out of the way places on the planet just to prop up yesterday's energy source. Meanwhile, they risk altering our planet's atmosphere to the point where life as we know it can no longer comfortably continue.

Unfortunately, Russia is already drilling in the Arctic. This shipment of the small amount of extremely low-grade oil Prirazlomnaya managed to extract represents a gamble not worth taking. That's why we're tracking down this symbolic first shipment. Vladimir Putin might think it's a cause for celebration.Greenpeace activists are going to be there when it docks to let them know what it really is: an outrage.

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