Late last night Norway’s Ministry of Petroleum informed the Greenpeace ship Esperanza of the creation of ‘safety zone’ around a drilling site in the Barents sea.
Esperanza is currently occupying the site preventing Statoil-contracted rig Transocean Spitsbergen from drilling the world’s northernmost well, the Apollo prospect.
Greenpeace International said it immediately rejected the move and lodged an appeal, claiming the Ministry had failed to provide a notice period required by international and Norwegian law.
“There is no reason why the Esperanza should have to make way for oil companies to drill here because of the abrupt and irregular declaration of a safety zone. Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, foreign vessels enjoy freedom of navigation through the Exclusive Economic Zone,” explained Greenpeace International legal counsel Daniel Simons. “We certainly have as much right to be here as companies drilling for Arctic oil.”
The Esperanza has been occupying Statoil’s proposed drill site since 13:00 CET on Thursday, and received notice from the Ministry at 20:30. Statoil plans to drill world’s northernmost oil well at the site which is 175 km from the Arctic nature reserve Bear Island.
Sune Scheller, Arctic campaigner onboard the Esperanza said: “We are conducting a peaceful protest against the madness of Arctic Oil. It goes against everything we know from climate science, is extremely risky and an oil spill here would be close to impossible to clean up so close to Bear Island.”
Greenpeace maintains that the zone cannot be applied as Statoil has failed to follow rules of notification. Under international law, Greenpeace says, “due notice” must be given for the establishment of a safety zone. Greenpeace further says that Norwegian law similarly states that the operator – in this case Statoil – must ensure a “public announcement well in advance of the establishment of a safety zone”, which is specified to be at least 30 days ahead of time. Neither the notification nor the public announcement has taken place, Greenpeace adds.
A total of 15 Greenpeace activists occupied the Statoil contracted oil rig on Tuesday at 5 AM CET. When the police removed the activists some 48 hours later, the Esperanza headed directly for the drill site and continued the occupation, preventing the rig from moving into position. All activists were released without charge.