One activist was hospitalised and another injured as Spanish Navy boats repeatedly rammed Greenpeace boats engaged in a protest by Greenpeace Spain against oil drilling in the Canary Islands, Spain, Greenpeace has announced on its website.
Greenpeace has said that early Saturday morning, inflatable boats from the Greenpeace ship ‘Arctic Sunrise’ approached the ‘Rowan Renaissance’ drillship 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 drillship flying flags in Spanish calling for ‘No oil exploration. Yes to Renewables’.
Greenpeace claims that its boats 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.”
Furthermore, the environmental organisation claims that the Navy’s high-speed ramming tactics threw one activist into the sea and 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, Greenpeace says.
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. According to Greenpeace, 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.
Greenpeace’s activists hold a banner in front of ship Arctic Sunrise against oil exploration in Canary Islands, exactly at the point where Repsol is going to do the drilling, Photo: Arturo Rodriguez / Greenpeace
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.”
Greenpeace has highlighted the fact that the ‘Rowan Renaissance’ has suffered technical problems in previous drilling efforts in Namibia. 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.
“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.
According to Marine Traffic’s AIS data, the ‘Arctic Sunrise’ vessel is no longer near the Repsol drilling site. The vessel is moored at the Arrecife port, aroung 30 nautical miles away from the Rowan Renaissance drillship.