San Francisco: Six Greenpeace activists pulled off a daring coup by boarding a Shell oil rig in mid-Pacific Ocean on Monday. The rig Polar Pioneer was being transported from Asia to Alaska via Seattle, to be part of Shell’s expected return to Arctic oil exploration.
The activists mounted the operation as a dramatic way of registering their opposition to Arctic exploration, made more urgent after last week’s US Department of the Interior decision to endorse the 2008 government auction of oil lease 193, allowing Arctic drilling.
Hailing from six different countries, the intrepid half dozen protesters mounted their intrusion about 750 miles northwest of Hawaii after pursuing for several days the rig and the heavy-lift vessel Blue Marlin on which it was being carried.
From their boat Esperanza (Spanish for “hope”) they approached the rig aboard an inflatable, and then used climbing lines to get aboard. The raiders then created a camp with tarps and hammocks on a tiny catwalk under the main deck. They are carrying several days of supplies.
Videos of the boarding were available online soon after it happened.
Greenpeace spokesman Travis Nichols said in an e-mail to media: “All six people on the ship are experienced climbers in their normal daily lives and have the professional training and equipment needed to climb on to the rig safely without interfering with its operation.”
Shell acknowledged the six had boarded and condemned the activists’ “illegal” action for putting in danger the lives if the Blue Marlin crew as well as the activists’ themselves.
The US Coast Guard is aware of the boarding and is monitoring the situation, its spokesman said in Honolulu.
The multinational boarding party comprises members from Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden, Austria and the US.