#savethearctic banner on top of shell icebreakers

New Zealand and Finland are practically on opposite sides of the planet, and quite a long way away from Alaska. Yet, they are the two starting points for Shell’s fleet of rented and commissioned ships that are preparing to get together and start drilling for oil in the Arctic this summer.

They’re not getting away with it. Worldwide, hundreds of thousands of individuals are writing to Shell, demanding they scrap their insane Arctic drilling plans. In New Zealand, activists occupied an Alaska-bound drill ship for several days. And now, in Finland, 20 Greenpeace Nordic activists have boarded the Shell-leased ice-breakers Fennica and Nordica.

Here’s the latest from Finland:

I’m standing in one of the ports of Helsinki, Finland, to witness 20 Greenpeace Nordic activists boarding ice-breakers Fennica and Nordica. Banners haven been put on Fennica’s crane and on the bow of Nordica. Some of the activists ascend the drawbridge dressed in overalls and carrying buckets, brooms and shovels as they were about to clean up the deck. What is this about?

Fennica and Nordica, two Finnish icebreakers whose main task is to secure shipping in the Baltic Sea, have been leased out to Shell for the summer seasons of 2012, 2013 and 2014 to help Shell drill in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off Alaska. The operation is unprecedented and risky. Shell is the first Big Oil company starting the rush for Arctic oil for real. The risk of an oil spill is higher in the Arctic because of floating icebergs, encroaching ice and extreme weather events. If there is a spill, the impacts will be disastrous.

In their oil spill response plan, Shell claims they could recover up to 90 per cent of leaked oil in the Arctic. In reality, there are no means to get anywhere near that. Shell has developed a mechanism to cap a leaking oil well but it has not been tested in Arctic conditions. Similar technique did not work in the Gulf of Mexico. Conventional methods to clean up oil will be crippled if there is ice or slushy water, a normal condition in the Arctic even during the summer seasons.

(Sini Harkki is an Arctic campaigner for Greenpeace Nordic, based in Finland.)

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The beautiful Arctic environment is in danger. You can join this growing movement of Arctic protectors at greenpeace.org/savethearctic.