Environmental campaigners have today (21 September) stopped an oil platform from moving into position to start drilling a well in deep water off the Shetland Islands by climbing up its huge anchor chain.
The Greenpeace activists used boats to reach the 228m long Stena Carron drill ship, anchored a mile off-shore. They then climbed up the giant rungs of the chain. Victor Rask and Anais Schneider hung above the waves in a tent suspended by ropes from one of the metre long rungs, making the ship unable to get to the drill site.
The rig, operated by the US energy giant Chevron, was about to sail for a site in the Lagavulin oil field before drilling an exploratory well in 500 metres of water. Since the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, environmental campaigners have joined forces with politicians across the world to demand a ban on new deep water drilling.
Rask and Schneider have just returned from a Greenpeace expedition to the Arctic, where they were members of the team that stopped drilling on a controversial rig operated in deep water by Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy.
"It was incredible to climb up the anchor chain,” said Schneider, speaking by satellite phone from the tent, “The rungs were almost as big as I am and Chevron's drilling ship is one of the biggest things I've ever seen at sea”.
He added, “Shetland is so beautiful and an oil spill here could devastate this area. It's time to go beyond oil. Our addiction is harming the climate, the natural world and our chances of building a clean energy future."
The occupation comes two days before environment ministers from countries bordering the North Sea meet to discuss a German proposal to ban new deep water drilling. The UK government is sending a minister to the meeting in Norway to block the proposal.
"David Cameron said his government would be the greenest ever, but he won't even support a plan to protect our seas from a BP-style disaster,” insisted Rask. “Instead of drilling for the last drops in fragile environments like this, oil companies should be developing the clean energy technologies we need to fight climate change and reduce our dependence on oil.”
He insisted, “We need a global ban on deep water drilling, and longer term we need a permanent shift away from fossil fuels towards clean energy solutions”.
Greenpeace is threatening legal action against the coalition government in an effort to stop the granting of new permits for deep water drilling off the UK. Last month Greenpeace lawyers wrote a formal “letter before action” to ministers - the precursor to seeking a judicial review of the decision to push ahead with new deep water drilling before the lessons from the BP disaster have been learned.
Permits for drilling are granted by Energy and Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne, who today reiterated his insistence that the coalition will be the “greenest government ever” while speaking at the Liberal Democrats' party conference.