Greenpeace in high-seas rig raid
IN FREEZING conditions, Greenpeace campaigners lowered inflatable dinghies into the choppy sea at dawn to battle their way through the Arctic.
• A Greenpeace campaigner is photographed as he boards the rig being operated by Cairn Energy in its search to find oil off Greenland. Picture: PA
Within ten minutes, the four men had dodged Danish military ships and police boats to reach the Cairn Energy oil rig, where they tied themselves to railings 15ft above the water.
The breach of the 1,650ft security perimeter around the Stena Don rig off western Greenland forced the Edinburgh-based oil and gas explorer to put a stop to drilling work yesterday - potentially costing the firm hundreds of thousands of pounds.
The stunt was branded an "openly-illegal act" and a "gross violation" of safety rules by Greenland's prime minister, Kuupik Kleist.
Environmental campaigners have warned that drilling in the Arctic could damage the fragile ecosystem, which is home to rare species, including polar bears, blue whales and 90 per cent of the world's narwhal population.
The activists have been monitoring Cairn's activities in the Arctic for ten days from their ship, the Esperanza.
Wearing dry suits and armed with self-heating meals, they say that they have supplies to last several days on the rig, where Cairn recently announced it had discovered gas in thin sands in the region. The discovery sparked expectations that crude oil might soon be found.
The campaigners claim that if they manage to delay Cairn's drilling by a few days, then it will struggle to complete the exploration before winter ice forces it to abandon the search for oil off Greenland until next year. "Right now this platform is the most important oil rig in the world," said US-born campaigner Sim McKenna, who scaled the rig alongside Timo Puohiniemi, Mateusz Emerfehaimer and Jens Lowe.
"If we can stop them striking oil here in the next few weeks, we'll hold back the oil giants for at least another year, hopefully gaining enough time for a global ban on dangerous deepwater drilling projects like this to be enacted."
Mr McKenna, who had been helping with the Gulf clean-up operation before joining the Esperanza in the Arctic, added: "The drilling rig we're hanging off could spark an Arctic oil rush, one that would pose a huge threat to the climate and put this fragile environment at risk."
Greenpeace activist Leila Deen helped prepare the campaigners to board the rig from the Esperanza."We lowered the boats into the water in silence and by the time we had started the engines, the police were too far behind," she said.
Numis Securities oil analyst Sanjeev Bahl said the shut down could "cost quite a bit of cash", adding that running the entire rig costs Cairn about $500,000 (approximately 325,000) a day.
"I don't think a couple of days will make too much difference," he said. "But if this continues to a week or two, it could make things a little tight in terms of time. They still have another two wells to drill before the weather closes in in November."
A Cairn spokesman said: "Safety remains our No1 priority. The actions taken by Greenpeace are primarily a matter for the Greenlandic authorities and Cairn will work with these authorities as they seek to deal with the matter in the most appropriate way."
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