Amsterdam, 15 November 2014 – One activist was hospitalised and another injured as Spanish Navy boats today repeatedly rammed Greenpeace boats engaged in a peaceful protest by Greenpeace Spain against oil drilling in the Canary Islands, Spain.
Early this morning, inflatable boats from the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise approached the oil drilling ship Rowan Renaissance to protest against reckless plans by Repsol to drill for offshore oil close to the popular Canary Islands tourist destinations of Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.
The activists’ boats headed towards the drilling ship flying flags in Spanish calling for ‘No oil exploration. Yes to Renewables’. They were aggressively intercepted and rammed repeatedly by three Spanish Navy boats from the Navy patrol ship Relámpago (P43) which has been escorting the Rowan Renaissance since Friday.
The Navy’s high-speed ramming tactics threw one activist into the sea. Two Greenpeace activists were injured. One activist, an Italian woman aged 23, suffered a broken leg and has been evacuated to hospital in Las Palmas by the Spanish Navy. The other activist was treated on board the Arctic Sunrise for minor cuts.
This is the first campaign against oil exploration by the Arctic Sunrise since it was repaired after being released from 10 months in Russian custody following a protest against Arctic oil drilling in September 2013.
The ship is currently holding station ahead of the Rowan Renaissance, and outside the exclusion zone decreed by Spanish authorities, where it is assessing the damage to its inflatable boats.
The Spanish Navy had asked the Arctic Sunrise on Friday night to leave the area. Joel Stewart, captain of the Arctic Sunrise, replied :
“Spanish warship, your message has been received and understood. We are going to remain in position. We are obligated to stay here as our duty is to protect the environment. We will not allow reckless oil drilling by the Rowan Renaissance in these deep waters as it is considered by us and our millions of supporters to be extremely reckless and we are calling on the Spanish government to protect the environment and to protect the people of the Canary Islands and not to be protecting the corporate profits of Repsol.”
The Rowan Renaissance has suffered technical problems in previous drilling efforts. In May, in Namibian waters, the wellhead collapsed after problems arose during the cementing phase, and due to the geotechnical characteristics of the drill location.
Greenpeace is opposed to oil drilling and has told Spanish authorities that the project in the Canary Islands fails to meet the requirements of a number of European Directives. Greenpeace has also reminded the authorities that it was in this phase of oil exploration that the Deepwater Horizon disaster occurred in April 2010 and devastated the Gulf of Mexico.
“An oil spill in the Canary Islands would be devastating for the environment and the economy of these popular tourist spots,” said Julio Barea of Greenpeace Spain.
Conrado Garcia, Greenpeace Spain (in Las Palmas), +34 660 471 267, e-mail: [email protected]
Julio Barea, Greenpeace campaigner on board the Arctic Sunrise, +34 626 99 82 53.
Laura Perez, communications director, Greenpeace Spain, +34 626 998 251, e-mail: [email protected]
Notes to Editors:
 Conversation between Joel Stewart and Spanish Navy vessel: here
Video and photos for download here