Arctic Activists Deported from Greenland

Greenpeace vows to take deepwater oil fight to new waters

Press release - 4 September, 2010
Baffin Bay, Greenland, 4 September 2010 -- Four Greenpeace climbers who scaled an oil rig in the freezing seas off Greenland and stopped it drilling for two days, have been deported to their home countries. The activists were arrested at midnight Wednesday night after forcing UK based Cairn Energy to cease all Arctic drilling operations for 40 hours. After severe weather forced them to end their occupation of the Stena Don drilling rig, they where arrested and flown 150km to Aasiaat on Greenland.

The Activists were taken to the airport by Danish police and put on flights home to Poland, Germany, Finland and the USA. They were charged with trespassing and with breaching the 500m zone around the rig. They have had all their non-personal equipment confiscated and fine of 20,000 Danish Krona each (US$3,440).

Speaking from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, which is on a tour of dangerous oil drilling sites as part of a campaign for a ban on deepwater oil drilling, Greenpeace Nordic climate change campaigner Jon Burgwald said: “Our climbers spent two days hanging from Cairn’s Stena Don drilling rig, just meters above the frigid arctic waters in freezing conditions, but every minute they were up there was another minute Cairn Energy couldn’t drill. We want to stop them sparking an arctic oil rush. At the very least we made it less likely they’ll strike oil this year before the winter weather conditions force them to leave the area.”

He continued: "We shut down drilling by taking action on the high seas, but if dangerous deepwater oil drilling is to be stopped for good then action also needs to be taken in the world's capitals. Our leaders need to take us beyond oil, to invest in clean energy solutions for the sake of the climate and the preservation of pristine environments like the Arctic."

The Esperanza will now leave Greenlandic waters, but the ship’s Go Beyond Oil tour will continue.

Later this month, environment ministers from countries bordering the North Sea will meet in Norway, where Germany is proposing a moratorium on new deepwater drilling. Greenpeace is backing the call, amid concerns that the Deepwater Horizon disaster could repeated at new deepwater sites across the world. In a letter to Greenpeace Cairn Energy says it is basing its Arctic investment on an International Energy Agency report which suggests that, by 2030, fossil fuels will still supply about 80% of the world's energy. According to scientists this scenario – the most pessimistic of several the IEA has produced – could lead to six degrees of warming by the end of the century.

The crew of the Esperanza includes Waldemar Wichmann, the Captain from Argentina; Annkatrin Schneider, deck hand from Germany; Ben Stewart and Leila Deen from the UK; Jon Burgwald from Denmark; Victor Rask from Sweden; Mateusz Emeschajmer from Poland; Timo Puohiniemi from Finland; Danielle McCarthy, Second Mate from Australia; Mannas, Chief Engineer from Holland; and Sim McKenna from the USA.




For more information contact Szabina Mozes, Greenpeace International Communication on +31 646 16 2023

For video and stills contact Melissa Thompson, Greenpeace International Video Desk: + 31 621 296899; Emma Stoner, Greenpeace International Picture Desk: +44 (0)207 865 8230

To speak to a campaigner off the coast of Greenland contact the Esperanza on +8816 7770 1411 or +8816 7770 1412 or +8816 7770 1413.



• The U.S. government calculates that the chance of a major spill occurring over the lifetime of a single block of leases in its own Arctic waters is greater than 20% - while those odds increase with every extra license granted. If the Cairn operation strikes oil the number of wells sunk off Greenland would increase dramatically. The well being drilled by Cairn is at a depth of 300-500 metres, while the moratorium introduced by President Barack Obama after the Deepwater Horizon disaster applies to wells deeper than 152 metres. Cairn has refused to publish a comprehensive plan for how it would deal with a spill from the platform, and has just 14 vessels capable of reacting to a spill (BP’s response in the Gulf of Mexico required more than 3000 vessels).

• Drilling west of Greenland is limited to a ‘summer window’ between July and end September. After this date, sea-ice becomes too thick to allow vessels to operate and relief wells cannot be drilled effectively. The area is known locally as ‘iceberg alley’. Cairn is having to tow icebergs out of the rig’s path or use water cannons to divert them. If the icebergs are too large the company has pledged to move the rig itself to avoid a collision. Last month a 260km2 ice island broke off the Petermann glacier north of Disko island and will eventually make its way south through Nares Strait into Baffin Bay and the Labrador Current before reaching the area where drilling is taking place.

• Cairn is run by Sir Bill Gammell, a childhood friend of both Tony Blair and George W Bush. When Bush first met Blair his opening words were: “I hear you know my friend Bill Gammell.” Last week Gammell sold Cairn’s Indian operation for US$9.2bn to fund the Greenland project, describing the Arctic as his “Plan A, B and C.”

• Baffin Bay is home to 80 to 90% of the world’s Narwhals. The region is also home to blue whales, polar bears, seals, sharks, cormorants, kittiwakes and numerous other migratory birds.

• Last week Cairn announced it had struck gas at a site a few miles from the occupied rig, but not oil. The fragile environment west of Disko Island is known as Iceberg Alley due to the plentiful icebergs and tough conditions. This has deterred oil companies from attempting exploration there in recent years, but the world’s oil giants are watching the Cairn project with great interest. If the Edinburgh-based company strikes oil, analysts expect a new Arctic oil rush, with Exxon, Chevron and other energy giants already buying up licenses to drill in the area and making preparations to move in.

• Cairn’s Greenland project is representative of a new approach to modern oil exploration, where self-styled ‘wildcat’ companies take on huge financial and technical risks in the hope of hitting a previously undiscovered reservoir of oil. The company’s complete lack of in-house infrastructure and failure to provide a comprehensive spill response plan raises serious questions about Cairn’s ability to deal with an accident in one of the most hostile environments on earth.

• According to Gammell, the company seeks ‘big acreage’ to give it a wide area for exploration, in contrast to the smaller parcels that are routinely found in the North Sea for example. The dangers of this approach become clear in the event of a spill, where the operation’s remote location means there is little infrastructure already in place to begin any clean up operation.