Drama at sea as activists halt departure of dangerous Arctic oil rig

Greenpeace - 22/04/2011

The international environmental group Greenpeace today prevented the departure of the Leiv Eiriksson oil rig from Turkey bound for Greenland’s Baffin Bay, in a bid to protect the pristine Arctic environment from dangerous deep sea oil drilling. It is the only oil rig in the world due to begin new oil drilling in the
Arctic this year.

At 05.40 (EET) this morning, an international team of volunteers used inflatable speedboats to intercept the rig shortly after it left Besiktas port near Istanbul. Eleven activists scaled the 53,000 tonne rig to impede its progress and are prepared for a sustained occupation, with sufficient supplies to last days. Highly skilled - and tough to remove - climbers are atop the rig’s drilling derrick and have unfurled a huge banner demanding: “Stop Arctic destruction.”

“Operated by the cowboy oil company Cairn Energy, the Leiv Eiriksson is the most dangerous rig in the world as it is the only one destined to begin new deep sea drilling in the Arctic. It poses a clear and present danger to the Arctic’s pristine environment,” said Greenpeace campaigner, Ben Ayliffe, from the scene of the action.

Extreme Arctic weather conditions mean that Cairn Energy has a very short window in which to drill their four new exploratory wells at depths of around 1500m – similar depths to the ill-fated BP well in the Gulf of Mexico. Freezing temperatures, severe weather and a highly remote location pose unprecedented challenges to any oil spill response in the Arctic and mean a spill could be impossible to contain and clean up.

Baffin Bay is one of the most fragile natural areas in the world. It is home to important and vulnerable wildlife including almost all of the world’s Narwhal population as well as blue whales, sea bird colonies, and polar bears.

“The Leiv Eiriksson is spearheading a new Arctic oil rush. We can still change course and protect this region, but only if we can force the foot-dragging polluting corporations and the politicians who back them to embrace measures to curb our dependence on oil,” continued Ayliffe

“We have a choice. We can go beyond oil. Instead of investing trillions in dirty oil and environmental destruction we can invest it in ramping up the efficiency of vehicles, and rolling out new clean energy technologies.”


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