Friday 24 February 2012

Greenpeace activists occupy drilling ship in New Zealand.

Early on the morning of Friday 24 February 2012 seven activists from the environmental group Greenpeace, including actress Lucy Lawless (better known as Xena the Warrior Princess) boarded the Liberian registered drilling exploration ship Noble Discoverer in the Port of Taranaki 0n North Island, New Zealand, as a protest against plans to search for oil in the Alaskan Arctic on behalf of the oil giant Shell. The ship had been chartered from its owners, Noble Drilling, after Shell was granted a license to prospect for oil in the Chukchi Sea, of the coast of Alaska, by the US Interior Department in August 2011.

Greenpeace activists atop the drilling derek on board the Noble Discoverer. Image from Greenpeace.

Greenpeace objects strongly to oil exploration in the Arctic, where ecosystems are thought to be especially vulnerable to oil spills, and where any major oil spill would be next to impossible to clean up. They point out that the cleanup operation after the blowout on the BP chartered oil rig Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico involved over 6000 ships and managed to recover only 17% of the oil spilled. The US Coast Guard has stated that such a cleanup in Arctic waters could not be attempted.

They also point out that Arctic environments are particularly vulnerable to the threat of global warming, and that the best means to protect them would be to cease exploration for new hydrocarbons and switch to alternative forms of energy generation as quickly as possible.

The New Plymouth Police, within whose jurisdiction Taranaki falls, have described the action as illegal, but have agreed to leave the protestors, who reportedly have several days worth of supplies, in place for the time being, stating that safety is their paramount concern. Shell have expressed 'disappointment' at the Greenpeace action, which they say endangers the lives of both the protestors and the crew, and have said they have offered to discuss their plans for drilling in the Arctic with Greenpeace.

This is the second Greenpeace action against Shell this week, on Monday (21 February 2012) protestors scaled the National Gallery in London, where Shell were hosting a reception, and unscaled a 40 m² banner reading "It's No Oil Painting", also in protest against the planned Arctic Drilling.

The location of the Chukchi Sea, where Shell hope to drill for oil. AP.