‘As long as it takes’: Greenpeace defiant as Shell brings lawsuit over rig boarding

San Francisco: Battle lines are drawn in the standoff between Greenpeace and Shell over the occupation of an Arctic-bound oil rig by six activists from the environmentalist group.

Shell, which plans to renew Arctic drilling as soon as certain permits are granted, has slapped Greenpeace with a US federal lawsuit for illegally boarding the Polar Pioneer semi-submersible rig on Monday.

The activists, who scaled the rig after chasing it down at sea 750 miles northwest of Hawaii, have promised to dig in to publicise their objections to the Arctic drilling planned for the Chukchi Sea northwest of Alaska. They have spent two nights in their makeshift camp on a catwalk beneath the main deck of the rig.

Isadora Wronski, a campaigner and part of the boarding party’s support team on their home ship the Esperanza, told Splash on Wednesday: “Our colleagues on the rig plan to stay as long as it takes to get the message across that millions of people will never give their permission to Shell to drill in the Arctic. The climbers have set up camp and have supplies for several days. We can also resupply them with things they need from the Esperanza (pictured).

“Arctic oil is a step too far. Shell must cancel their risky Arctic plans and stay out of this pristine and sensitive area that so many depend upon. Arctic oil must stay in the ground if we are to avoid catastrophic oil spills and dangerous climate change.

“We’ve been in dialogue with Shell for years now, so they’re well aware that we want them to stay out of the Arctic. Before the boarding, we sent Shell a letter and informed them about our intentions.”

With a constant social media flow from the protesters to their many followers worldwide, the group knew they had a worldwide audience when on Tuesday they unfurled a banner that read “The people vs Shell”.

TheTransocean-owned rig, being transported on heavylift vessel Blue Marlin, has been journeying across the Pacific from Malaysia since early March. Greenpeace moved to intercept it once the US Department of the Interior last week affirmed a 2008 government auction of oil lease in Alaskan waters, which made it much more likely Shell would return to Arctic drilling for the first time in three years.

The Seattle staging post, where Shell hopes to moor its Arctic fleet, could be the next front in this dispute, says Wronski. “The Polar Pioneer is expected to turn up in Seattle at some point mid April. We’ll continue to expose Shell’s irresponsible plans to the world and there’s already a strong resistance movement in Seattle who don’t want Shell to host their Arctic fleet in their harbour. So it won’t just be our small team that meets Shell’s rig before it arrives.”

Shell, for its part, filed its injunction in Alaska on Tuesday with the intention of bringing an end to the boarding and having the protesters removed.

“While we recognise the right to voice an objection to our planned Alaska exploration program, we can’t condone Greenpeace’s unlawful and unsafe stunts,” Shell said on its website.

Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.
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