Sept. 27, 2010 - For over 24 hours Greenpeace swimmers and campaigners in Kayaks have impeded the progress of the giant oil drilling ship the Stena Carron which is destined to begin a dangerous deep water drilling programme in the North Atlantic.
Described by one of the swimmers as being like a skyscraper on its side, the 228 meter long drill ship is being operated by US energy giant Chevron. Yesterday, at 13-30 local time four campaigners left the Greenpeace ship Esperanza by inflatable speedboat and dived into open seas 100 miles north of Shetland to pressure the Stena Carron into turning back to port. Since then and throughout the night swimmers and campaigners have taken turns to place themselves between the ship and its dangerous destination.
One of the swimmers, Leila Deen, said: “At dawn this morning I was in the sea stopping this enormous ship from moving. It’s just crazy that it’s up to us to do this, when this oil ship should be stopped by a government ban on deep water drilling. We’re going to continue blocking the Carron for as long as we can. All the swimmers are in high spirits and determined to keep going because we need to go beyond oil to stop climate change.”
Last Saturday a 100-hour occupation of the Stena Carron’s anchor chain ended when a court order forced Greenpeace to remove a purpose-built survival pod. If the campaigners had not lowered the pod they could have been forced to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds of supporters’ money to Chevron.
Just hours after the end of the pod occupation the ship left for a site in the Lagavulin oil field where it intends to drill an exploratory well in 500 metres of water. Since the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, environmental campaigners have been calling for a ban on new deep water drilling.
Greenpeace is threatening legal action against the Cameron government in an effort to stop the granting of new permits for deep water drilling. Last month Greenpeace lawyers wrote a ‘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 are granted by Lib Dem Energy Secretary Chris Huhne.
Investigations into the Gulf of Mexico spill are still underway and the full extent of the tragedy is only now being discovered. Any clean-up operation off Shetland could be severely hampered by rough weather, making it more expensive and difficult than the operation in the US, which as of September 2010 had already cost $8bn (£5.2bn), with continuing costs of $90m per day. Colder waters would also mean that oil would disperse much more slowly, and therefore cause greater damage to wildlife. Harsh weather conditions west of the Shetlands, in what is described by the Government as ‘a particularly challenging location’, have so far deterred major exploitation of oil, but recently energy firms have lobbied for tax breaks to make production more attractive. In January this year Alistair Darling announced changes that could be worth £12 billion over the next eight years.
The Eggar review, led by former Conservative Energy Minister and oilman Tim Eggar, is expected to recommend further incentives. The Lib Dem-Conservative coalition government is refusing to release the contents of the Review. The process by which exploration and production licenses are issued to the industry is being ‘streamlined’. As a result, Chevron, BP and other oil majors have announced their intention to push further into the region west of the Shetlands, drilling wells in riskier deeper water and more remote locations than before.
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