Global Head of Greenpeace Arrested on Arctic Rig

Greenpeace ship departs Arctic as campaign shifts gear

Press release - 17 June, 2011
Greenland, June 17 2011 – The International Executive Director of Greenpeace, Kumi Naidoo, has been arrested and is being flown to Greenland after breaching an exclusion zone and scaling a controversial Arctic oil rig 120km out to sea.

At 6.45am this morning an inflatable speedboat carrying Naidoo was launched from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza. The rig’s operators Cairn Energy used powerful water cannon to try to prevent him climbing a 30 metre ladder up the outside of one of the rig’s giant legs, but Naidoo braved the freezing jets and made it to the platform.

Soaking wet he demanded that Cairn immediately halt drilling operations and leave the Arctic. He also sought a meeting with the Master of the rig so he could present the names of 50,000 people from across the world who have emailed Cairn to demand they publish the rig’s secret oil spill response plan. The document has been at the centre of a month-long campaign of direct action in the Arctic.

Just before he was arrested Kumi Naidoo radioed the Esperanza, saying:

“It looks like I’m being arrested now. They say I’m going to be taken to Greenland, but what happens after that I don’t know. I did this because Arctic oil drilling is one of the defining environmental battles of our age. I’m an African but I care deeply about what’s happening up here. The rapidly melting arctic sea ice is a grave warning to all of us, so it’s nothing short of madness that companies like Cairn see it as a chance to drill for the fossil fuels that got us into this climate change mess in the first place. We have to draw a line and say no more. I’m drawing that line here and now in the Arctic ice.”

As the helicopter that was sent to collect Naidoo and his fellow activist, Ulvar Arnkvaern, departed the rig, Ben Stewart onboard the nearby Greenpeace ship Esperanza said:

“After over a month of non-stop action to stop dangerous deep water drilling in the Arctic, which has seen 22 Greenpeace activists including Kumi arrested after braving freezing seas to protest against Cairn’s reckless drilling, it is time to move the campaign up a gear and out of the Arctic.”

“We are now leaving the area and taking the campaign against dangerous Arctic oil drilling to other places, and that’s where we’ll be for the rest of the year. The next stage of the campaign will be a scientific tour around Greenland to investigate climate impacts that are already under way. We will continue to push for the disclosure of the secret oil spill response plan through our complaint to the Greenland Ombudsman, under UK law, and through Cairn’s shareholders.”

“This is far from over. The battle to stop Arctic oil drilling has only just begun. A movement is building against this madness, one that will challenge the oil companies at every turn until they are locked out of the Arctic. These are critical years, ones in which the struggle to prevent the worst effects of climate change will be won or lost. The Arctic will be right at the heart of that struggle. The melting ice is a warning, and if we have the wisdom to heed it a bright future is still possible.”

Kumi, 45, was a youth leader in the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa, where he was arrested several times and charged with violating provisions against mass mobilisation, civil disobedience and for violating the state of emergency. He lived underground before being forced to flee South Africa and live in exile in the UK.


***video and stills available***

For more contact Greenpeace International 24-hour press desk on +31 20 718 2470
Contact the Greenpeace ship Esperanza on +47 5140 7986 / 7 / 8
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Greenpeace International Video Desk,  +1 267 239 7288


Experts believe an Arctic oil spill would be extremely hard to deal with because of the freezing temperatures and remote location. Private state documents revealed last month show that the UK government believes an Arctic spill would be ‘near impossible’ to clean up:

The Leiv Eiriksson is one of just two drilling vessels operating off the coast of Greenland. The world's oil giants are watching Cairn’s rig with great interest. If it strikes oil this summer Exxon, Chevron and the other big oil companies (which have already bought up Greenland licenses) will begin drilling in the area and the Arctic oil rush will be on.

Arctic sea ice record low for time of year:

Two weeks ago Greenpeace stopped operations on the rig for four days by hanging a survival pod occupied by two activists from its underside. On June 4 Greenpeace stopped the rig drilling for 10 hours after 18 activists scaled the rig to demand a copy of Cairn’s Oil Spill Response Plan.

Even without an accident Cairn admits its drilling operation will result in at least 9,000 tonnes of chemicals being discharged directly into the waters of the Davis Strait – including 180 tonnes of red-listed chemicals (more than all annual oil drilling operations in Norway and Denmark combined). The company admits that it would take decades before significant profits from oil exploration flow to Greenland, while Cairn’s operations pose a grave threat to Greenland’s fisheries, which represent 88% of the island’s export economy.

The area where Cairn intends to drill is known as ‘Iceberg Alley'. The company intends to tow icebergs out of the rig's path or use water cannons to divert them to avoid a collision as the rig drills for oil. If the icebergs are too large the company has admitted it will need to move the rig itself. Last year a 260km2  ice island broke off the Petermann glacier north of Iceberg Alley. The region is famous for its narwhal population.