A fortnight ago, seven Greenpeace activists lead by Lucy Lawless, the TV star famous for her role in “Xena: Warrior Princess” TV series boarded Shell’s drillship in New Zealand to prevent it from sailing away towards Alaska to begin drilling in the Chukchi Sea.
After having been onboard for two days, the activists were arrested and charged for burglary.
Today, on the other side of the world, in Finland, the protests against Shell’s Arctic drilling plans continue. Twenty Greenpeace activists have boarded two icebreakers leased by Shell from Finland’s Arctia Offshore.
The activists have put “Stop Shell. Save the Arctic” banners on the icebreakers Fennica and Nordica, the vessels that Shell contracted to help with drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas off the coast of Alaska.
Arctia Offshore, the owner of the vessels, in October last year hired another Finnish company, Wartsila, to carry out modifications to the vessels so they can fulfill the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) emission requirements for operating in the Arctic Ocean in an environmentally sustainable manner.
Sini Harkki, an Arctic campaigner for Greenpeace Nordic, says that Shell’s Arctic operation is unprecedented and risky. “Shell is the first Big Oil company starting the rush for Arctic oil for real. The risk of an oil spill is higher in the Arctic because of floating icebergs, encroaching ice and extreme weather events. If there is a spill, the impacts will be disastrous,” Greenpeace quotes Harkki as saying.
Greenpeace has questioned Shell’s Arctic drilling plans, claiming that the Arctic oil spill would be impossible to contain and clean up and would cause a disaster greater than the sinking of the Deepwater Horizon did.
But Rob Jager, Chairman of Shell New Zealand, has dismissed this: “Shell has taken unprecedented steps to pursue safe, environmentally responsible exploration in shallow water off the coast of Alaska. We recognize that industry’s license to operate in the offshore is predicated on being able to operate in a safe, environmentally sound manner. Shell’s commitment to those basic principles is unwavering. Shell’s Alaska Exploration Plans and Oil Spill Response Plans are guided by our extensive Arctic expertise, solid scientific understanding of the environment and world-class capabilities.”
Offshore Energy Today Staff, March 16, 2012; Image: Greenpeace