Norwegian Coast Guard boards Greenpeace ship
THE BARENTS SEA -- The Norwegian Coast Guard has boarded the Greenpeace ship Esperanza outside of the country’s territorial waters to end a protest against Arctic oil drilling. The environmental group considers the boarding of the ship illegal under international maritime law.
At 10:10PM CET the Norwegian Coast Guard asked the Esperanza to end its occupation of the Hoop drilling site and end an 89 hour protest. After the ship refused to leave its position 30 minutes later, an unknown number of Norwegian coast guard arrived in two boats and boarded the ship at 10:50pm CET. They immediately cut all communications from the ship.
"The Norwegian Coast Guard is stopping a legal and peaceful Greenpeace action against Arctic drilling. The Esperanza was exercising its right to freedom of navigation as guaranteed in international law. While inconvenient for Statoil, our actions were lawful, in contrast to the intervention by the Coast Guard,” said Greenpeace International legal counsel Daniel Simons.
Speaking from the deck of the Esperanza moments before it was boarded, Greenpeace Arctic campaigner Sune Scheller said: “We are appalled by Norway’s decision to end a peaceful and legal protest. It keeps surprising me how far nation states will go to protect big oil companies. We have just as much right as Statoil to sail our ship in this part of the Arctic Ocean. We will not stand by while their drilling rigs destroy our last remaining wild places."
Earlier today Greenpeace lawyers insisted that the creation of a safety zone without due warning breaches both the international law of the sea and Norwegian maritime law.
Norway’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) extends 200 miles from the country’s coastline. Under Article 58, paragraph 1, of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, foreign vessels like the Esperanza enjoy freedom of navigation through the EEZ .
Earlier this week a total of 15 Greenpeace activists occupied the Statoil contracted oil rig for 48 hours before climbers were removed by police and taken to the city of TromsØ. All were released without charge. Hours later the Greenpeace ship Esperanza sailed towards the Hoop drilling site and occupied the area in an attempt to block the rig from moving into position.