On the morning of 27 May Greenpeace activists boarded the drilling rig Transocean Spitsbergen. The rig was en route to the Hoop area in the Barents Sea.
On Monday Statoil got approval from the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment to start drilling operations tied to the Apollo prospect in the Hoop area. The company is not allowed to drill into oil-bearing layers until the complaint from Greenpeace has been dealt with by the ministry.
“Statoil respects the right for legal protests and believes it is important with a democratic debate on the oil and industry. Statoil has had a dialogue with Greenpeace over the last few months. We have informed about our exploration plans in the Barents Sea and the emergency response setup for the operations on several occasions, and Greenpeace has been given the opportunity to explain their views and ask questions,” the Norwegian oil company said in a press release.
“For Statoil the safety of people and the environment is the first priority, and we do not want activity that can increase the risk level. Greenpeace has been explained the risk associated with actions against a rig in open waters. When they still use this form of protest we believe they act irresponsibly and illegally.”
“For us it is important to state that the Hoop area has been through an impact assessment and has been opened for petroleum activity by Norwegian authorities. Hoop is an area with known geology, low pressure and temperature, and where Statoil has robust plans for the operations. An oil spill is very unlikely, but at the same time we have put in place a number of barriers to be able to handle a situation should it occur,” Statoil said.
The rig is now about 300 kilometres offshore and Statoil said there was a dialogue between the crew onboard the rig and the activists. The rig is owned by Transocean and is on contract to Statoil.
In a separate statement Greenpeace said its activists from eight countries have scaled the rig to protest the Statoil’s plans to drill the northernmost well in the Norwegian Arctic, close to the Bear Island nature reserve.
The activists include 32 year old Sini Saarela from Finland, who spent over two months in Russian prison for climbing another Arctic oil rig in September last year. She is currently attached to the oil rig Transocean Spitsbergen and commented:
“Bear Island is a breathtaking part of the Arctic and thousands of us are determined to protect it. After visiting this mysterious island for the first time last week, I find it hard to imagine that anyone could be so irresponsible as to threaten it with oil spills. If Statoil caused a major accident here the oil could reach the nesting place of a million seabirds in less than a week.”
“I took action in Russia last year to stop exactly the same recklessness as I can see here in Norway. We ask everyone to tell the Norwegian government to stop this dangerous rush into the beautiful Arctic environment and rethink its increasingly desperate hunt for oil.”