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Six Greenpeace climbers have intercepted an Arctic-bound Shell oil rig in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, 750 miles north-west of Hawaii and have scaled the enormous ship. (Photo: Vincenzo Floramo/Greenpeace)

'People vs. Shell': High Seas Protest as Greenpeace Boards Arctic-Bound Ship

U.S. Department of Interior has approved Shell’s drilling lease for the Chukchi Sea in the Alaskan Arctic, but the international green group has vowed to escalate its opposition

Jon Queally

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, a team of Greenpeace activists has boarded an Arctic-bound drilling vessel owned by the Shell oil company.

"I’m just one voice out here, but I know I’m not alone, and millions if not billions of voices demanding the right to safe and healthy lives will have a huge chance of changing things." —Johno SmithApproximately 750 miles north-west of Hawaii, the team of six campaigners intercepted the ship—which they've been tracking across the Pacific since last month—and scaled the 38,000 ton drilling platform which is being hauled by a larger transportation vessel. According to Greenpeace, its campaigners will set up camp on the underside of the rig's main deck and are equipped with supplies to last for several days and technology which will allow them to communicate with supporters around the world in real-time, despite being hundreds of miles from land.

The group is using the hastag #TheCrossing to post photos and live updates from the rig:

Named the Polar Pioneer, the Shell drilling rig is destined for the Chukchi Sea, off the coast of Alaska, where the company—despite the enormous risks posed to the fragile region and the global outcry calling for a ban on Arctic drilling—intends to begin exploratory drilling later this year. According to Greenpeace, its international team of activists—including campaigners from the USA, Germany, New Zealand, Australia, Sweden and Austria—landed on the larger ship transporting the Polar Pioneer, the 700-foot long heavy-lift vessel called the Blue Marlin, using inflatable boats launched from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza, which has been following the 400 foot vessel for weeks.

Aliyah Field, one of the six, tweeted from the Polar Pioneer: "We made it! We're on Shell's platform. And we're not alone. Everyone can help turn this into a platform for people power! #TheCrossing."

Johno Smith from New Zealand, another one of the six, said: "We’re here to highlight that in less than 100 days Shell is going to the Arctic to drill for oil. This pristine environment needs protecting for future generations and all life that will call it home. But instead Shell’s actions are exploiting the melting ice to increase a man-made disaster. Climate change is real and already inflicting pain and suffering on my brothers and sisters in the Pacific."

The group, according to a statement, has plans to hang a banner from the ship that includes millions of names from people around the world who have signed onto petitions objecting to oil or gas drilling in the Arctic.

As Smith continued, "I believe that shining a light on what Shell is doing will encourage more people to take a strong stand against them and other companies who are seeking to destroy this planet for profit. I’m just one voice out here, but I know I’m not alone, and millions if not billions of voices demanding the right to safe and healthy lives will have a huge chance of changing things."

Shell spokesperson Kelly op de Weegh, in a statement, called the boarding of its ship by Greenpeace "illegal" and said that "these stunts" would not "distract from preparations underway" to begin its  drilling operations in the Arctic, which she described as a "safe and responsible exploration program."

In recent weeks, a decision by the Obama administration to give final approval for Shell to resume its drilling operations in the waters off the Alaskan coast was met by a chorus of outrage and criticism by Greenpeace and other experts who say there is no such thing as safely drilling in the Arctic.

"It is unconscionable that the federal government is willing to risk the health and safety of the people and wildlife that live near and within the Chukchi Sea for Shell’s reckless pursuit of oil," said Marissa Knodel, a climate campaigner with Friends of the Earth, at the time. "Shell’s dismal record of safety violations and accidents, coupled with the inability to clean up or contain an oil spill in the remote, dangerous Arctic waters, equals a disaster waiting to happen."


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