New Zealander part of action breaking court injunction over deep sea Arctic oil

Press release - June 18, 2011
Greenland, June 18 2011 – Greenpeace New Zealand employee Nick Young reports that 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 21:45 NZ time 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.

“For me this is one of the defining environmental battles of our age, it’s a fight for sanity against the madness of a mindset that sees the melting of the Arctic sea ice as a good thing. As the ice retreats the oil companies want to send the rigs in and drill for the fossil fuels that got us into this mess in the first place. We have to stop them. It goes right to the heart of the kind of world we want and the one which we want to pass onto our children,” said Naidoo, before he set off to board the rig.

Naidoo’s action comes a week after the operators of the oil platform, Cairn Energy, obtained an injunction against Greenpeace from a Dutch court, imposing fines of 50,000 Euros a day for any breach of the exclusion zone. Cairn sought the injunction after 20 Greenpeace activists had been arrested on the rig for stopping the rig operating.

As the head of the global organisation Naidoo himself volunteered to scale the rig.

Nick Young is an activist with Greenpeace New Zealand. He is crew on board the Esperanza and represents the opposition of many New Zealanders to drilling for oil in the deep waters of the world’s last remaining pristine areas.

Both the exploration in the Arctic, and the deep sea exploration that is about to get underway off New Zealand’s coasts, are a part of the same push into the oil industry’s final frontiers, as oil supplies begin to wane.  Both pose a huge and immediate risk to their respective regions. The oil industry, and the governments that are working to attract it to their parts of the world, are bringing the point of runaway climate change closer.

“The New Zealand Government has already spent $30 million of taxpayers money on seismic surveys, in an effort to bring the deep sea oil industry here. That marks a lost opportunity to help win our fledgling cleantech industries a foothold in the already enormous global cleantech sector. Around the world more money is now invested on renewables than on fossil fuels,” says Young.

If Cairn is able to drill, it will do so in 900 metres of water. Divers can only descend to fix problems in up to 200 metres of water. If Cairn’s well started leaking, as BP’s did in the Gulf of Mexico last year, it would have to be sealed before winter, otherwise it would continue leaking under the ice sheet until the following summer.

Cairn employs ships to tow icebergs away from its rig, or to try and divert icebergs with water cannon. The rig has to be moved to avoid collisions with bigger icebergs.

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.