New Zealander remains in middle of Arctic oil stand off

Press release - May 31, 2011
Auckland Tuesday May 31 2011: Greenpeace NZ Web Manager Nick Young reports that the stand off with the Danish navy is currently “pretty tense”, but that Greenpeace’s activists are still preventing the deep sea oil rig the Leiv Eiriksson from starting to drill.

Meanwhile, global carbon emissions have reached the highest levels ever despite the economic downturn, according to figures from the International Energy Agency reported this week in the Guardian newspaper. The surge has raised concerns that the target of avoiding a dangerous 2C rise in global temperatures is "almost out of reach”.

Nick Young is on board the Arctic Sunrise, one of the two Greenpeace vessels taking part in the action, because the New Zealand Government, like Denmark’s, is also opening up the deep waters under its jurisdiction to exploitation by the deep sea oil industry.

Young says the rig is currently shrouded in fog, but that he can see the Danish warship.

“The Arctic oil rush is only underway because the ice cap is rapidly retreating due to climate change. This really should be the moment when we decide to shift course. We now know with some certainty that if we don’t, we face a grave and uncertain future. If we choose to grasp the potential of new clean technologies we could curb some of the worst impacts of the warming whilst creating new jobs and industries.

“The global surge in climate pollution means the carbon tipping point is very nearly upon us. The oil rig I am looking at now and that our activists are preventing from drilling represents the crazy thinking that is bringing us to the brink of runaway climate change. Instead of seeing a warming Arctic as an ominous warning they treat it as an invitation to drill for more climate-changing fossil fuels, threatening the Arctic environment in the process,” Young says.

At 3am local time yesterday a team of expert climbers in inflatable speedboats climbed the 53,000 tonne self propelled semi submersible rig the Leiv Eiriksson. They avoided a Danish warship that had been shadowing the Greenpeace team for days, having been sent to keep the protesters off the rig. The climbers set up camp a few metres from the huge drill-bit that Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy hopes will strike oil in the coming weeks. If Greenpeace can continue to delay drilling for just a short time, Cairn could struggle to meet a tight deadline to complete the exploration before winter ice closes in, forcing it to abandon the search for another year.

The Leiv Eiriksson  has now reached its drill site. The Danish warship this morning declared a 500m exclusion zone around the rig as the stand-off continues.


Nick Young, on board the Arctic Sunrise, is available for live satphone interviews.

Aerial pictures (video and stills) of the standoff will soon be available from Greenpeace’s FTP sever.

For help with all of the above, contact Jay Harkness, Greenpeace NZ media and Communications, on 021 495 216.

Live updates on the action are available here: