Danish Warship Blocks Greenpeace Arctic Oil Protest

Published on
by
The Guardian/UK

Danish Warship Blocks Greenpeace Arctic Oil Protest

The Danish navy has warned that the Esperanza will be boarded by armed personnel if it breaches the exclusion zone

by
Severin Carrell and Kirsty Scott

The Greenpeace protest ship the Esperanza is in a stand off with a Danish warship and navy commandos in the seas off Greenland. (Photograph: Will Rose/Greenpeace)

A Greenpeace ship protesting against deep sea drilling by a British oil firm in the Arctic has been confronted by a Danish warship, and its captain threatened with arrest.

The
Danish navy has warned Greenpeace that the Esperanza will be boarded by
armed personnel if it breaches a 500-metre exclusion zone around two
wells drilled off Greenland by the Edinburgh-based oil firm Cairn Energy.

The
confrontation came as scores of climate protesters targeted Cairn
Energy's headquarters and six other businesses in Edinburgh during a day
of action to protest against the funding of oil and gas industries by
the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The protests led to the shutting down of the RBS headquarters on the
eastern edge of Edinburgh for the day, with thousands of staff told to
work from home or other RBS offices. Twelve Climate Camp activists were arrested during the protest.

The
protesters say RBS is the most significant backer of oil, gas and coal
mining of any British bank, arranging or directly loaning £13bn to
"dirty" fossil fuel industries since the government bailout in October
2008. That includes directly funding companies exploiting
energy-intensive tar sands in the Canadian wilderness.

Eight protesters dressed in black took a fake pig dripping molasses to the headquarters of Cairn Energy,
which has become the focus of environment protests over its drilling in
the Arctic and its business dealings with the Indian mining company
Vedanta.

The protesters claim Cairn has been given £117m in loans
and equity by RBS last year, almost half of which was used to fund
Cairn's Arctic drilling operations.

As climate camp protesters smeared the fake oil at Cairn's front entrance, Friends of the Earth Scotland
attacked the company for selling a large part of its Indian drilling
operations to Vedanta, which has been widely accused of abusing human
rights and the environment at a bauxite mine on Orissa.

Ben
Stewart, a Greenpeace spokesman on board the Esperanza, said the boat
was being circled by three Danish military boats but the protesters were
staying outside the exclusion zone.

He said: "It seems crazy to
us that the Arctic sea ice is melting, and the oil industry response is
to start drilling here, rather than take melting sea ice as a warning
about the huge risk to humanity from global warming."

Morten
Neilsen, the deputy chief of Greenland police, said his officers were
reacting as they would with any demonstration. "Since this is out in
water, it would be quite impossible to send a patrol car. If we want a
police presence, it has to be by boat," he said.

He refused to
comment on whether Danish special forces were involved but said
Greenpeace was observing the instruction to remain outside the exclusion
zone.

RBS denies that it had directly funded Cairn's Arctic
exploration, saying this was a risky form of investment which needed
different types of funding. The bank did lend Cairn Energy money and
arrange other loans, but neither it nor Cairn would confirm the sums
involved.

The oil company said it and the Greenland authorities abided by some of the world's strictest safety and environmental rules. "

We've put procedures in place to give the highest possible priority to safety and environmental protection," the company said.

This
year's climate camp protests were more muted than in previous years. At
Heathrow in 2007 where the protests were supported by local residents
furious at plans for a third runway, there were violent clashes with
police and missiles thrown, with injuries and arrests. At Kingsnorth in
Kent in 2008 the climate camp claimed credit for helping derail plans to
build a major new coal-fired power station with untested carbon capture
and storage facilities.

At the RBS's £335m headquarters in
Gogarburn, around 500 campaigners spent the last four days gathering at
the camp, which occupied two meadows inside the perimeter fence,
mounting sporadic actions against RBS buildings over the weekend which
led to a further 10 arrests and damage to six windows.

Today's
direct action targeted the headquarters of Forth Energy in Leith, which
plans to build large biomass power stations at ports around Scotland,
where five protesters who chained and glued themselves to the building.

Seven
protesters were arrested after gluing their hands together to create a
human chain blocking a car park at a major RBS administration building
in Edinburgh Park business estate, while branches in central Edinburgh
were occupied and targeted, some by protesters drenched in molasses to
symbolise oil, leading to several further arrests.

A group
of protesters, including Fringe performers, shut down the Nicolson
Street RBS branch. Three individuals superglued themselves across the
front doorway, while another group played music and danced while handing
out leaflets. There were three arrests.

After the previous group
of protesters was removed by police, a group of "tar-covered" protesters
shut down the Nicolson Street RBS branch a second time, as several
activists locked themselves onto the building.

Late in the
afternoon, activists confronted the RBS HQ with a six metre tall mock
siege tower on wheels, with a life-size papier mache rhinoceros head
mounted on the front. This led to two arrests.

A banner was dropped from a building reading "oil tar sands = environmental chaos". There were two arrests.

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