Earlier this week, a group of Greenpeace activists climbed onto an oil rig belonging to Statoil, a Norwegian state-owned oil and gas company. The oil rig was being moved to its new drilling location in the Barents Sea, located near the unique Arctic habitat of Bear Island – a protected nature reserve home to countless of sea birds, polar bears and other wildlife. The activists managed to “occupy” the oil rig for 48 hours before they were forcefully removed by Norwegian police.
Following the arrest of its activists, Greenpeace decided to block the actual drilling site with its ship the Esperanza. The activists rejected the coast guard's demands to move the ship. As a result, Norway’s Ministry of Petroleum informed Greenpeace that the government had created a “safety zone” around the drilling site. And early this morning, the Norwegian coast guard boarded Esperanza and started towing it away.
Because Esperanza was outside of Norwegian territorial waters, Greenpeace believes that the boarding violates international 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,” said Greenpeace International legal counsel Daniel Simons. “Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, foreign vessels enjoy freedom of navigation through the Exclusive Economic Zone. We certainly have as much right to be here as companies drilling for Arctic oil," Simons explained.
Greenpeace also delivered a petition from over 120,000 people to Tine Sundtoft, the Norwegian Environment minister, asking her to reconsider the decision to allow drilling near Bear Island, a protected nature reserve.
“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,” said 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.
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