Preventing Arctic drilling By John Vidal - Sunday 24th April 2011

THE fight to stop the global oil industry exploring the pristine deep waters of the Arctic has been dubbed the new cold war, and early on Friday it escalated as environmental activists from 12 countries occupied the world’s second largest rig on its way from Turkey to Greenland to drill among the icebergs.
The protesters found the 52,000-tonne semi-submersible platform Leiv Eiriksson at around midnight, steaming due west at a stately six knots in the sea of Marmaris, heading for the Dardanelle straits and the open Mediterranean. It took four more hours for Greenpeace to bring in its inflatables and a further 50 minutes in the choppy moonlit sea to intercept it.
Even from three miles away, the Chinese-built mobile rig, which specialises in drilling in extreme environments, looks huge. From 100 feet away in the pale dawn light it is a 15-storey industrial castle, bristling with cranes, derricks, gangways, chains, spars, girders, pipes, helipads and radar.
Just 10 years old, it is already rusting and its paintwork is streaked from years of drilling in harsh west African, north Atlantic and Asian waters.
The Greenpeace boats approached the vessel cautiously in the three-foot swell, like fleas to the backside of an elephant. At exactly 5.31am, the 11 climbers began to leap on to its hull and headed for a ladder. The plan was to stop the vessel in its tracks not by taking over the bridge, but by radioing the captain and asking politely. Fat chance.
“This is Greenpeace, this is Greenpeace. I’m informing you that we have put climbers on your rig. I ask you stop your vessel,” asked Korol Diker, a Turkish campaigner, on a VHF channel.
But the elephant barely registered. “I do not recognise you”, came the captain’s cutting reply and the Leiv Eiriksson steamed on. Undaunted, the climbers made it to a gangway 20 metres over the vessel’s starboard stern. As four crewmen peered over the side from nine metres above them, and two more ambled over, seemingly unconcerned, the climbers made a cat’s cradle of rope to hang banners and a tent from.
You can understand why the captain did not want to stop. The Scottish oil company Cairn Energy has hired the Leiv Eiriksson for around $500,000 a day and the company, run by Sir Bill Gammell, the former international rugby player, plans to spend more than $500m in the next few months looking for oil in some of the most dangerous and coldest waters in the world. Any major delay could cost it millions and set back its plans for the Arctic by a year, because drilling is only possible in the July-October ‘summer window’ when the ice has retreated.
Cairn, which will be the only company to drill deep wells offshore in the Arctic this year, holds 11 licences in Baffin Bay covering over 80,000 square kilometres. It plans to drill four exploratory wells to depths of around 1,500 metres, the deepest ever attempted in the Arctic.
— The Guardian, London

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