02 June 2014, News Wires – Greenpeace has filed a complaint with the authorities after its protest vessel Esperanza was towed away from the site of a controversial wildcat to be drilled by Statoil in the Barents Sea.
The environmental group had positioned the vessel at the precise location of the drill site at the Apollo prospect in its latest move to halt the well to be drilled by semi-submersible Transocean Spitsbergen after its activists were removed from the rig by police last week.
However, the Norwegian authorities subsequently imposed an arbitrary 500-metre exclusion zone in the vicinity of the site and the vessel was boarded by Coast Guard officers late on Friday after its crew were served with an ultimatum to exit the area.
The Esperanza was then towed away from the area by the Coast Guard before being released, with no activists being detained, and finally docked in Tromso on Monday morning after disrupting Statoil’s drilling effort for nearly four days.
Greenpeace’s Arctic advisor Erlend Tellnes, who was on the bridge of the vessel at the time of the boarding, said he was “shocked that the Coast Guard has terminated our peaceful and legal protest”, claiming the Dutch-registered ship was within its rights to occupy the territorial waters.
“It surprises me continually how far the state will go to protect the oil industry,” he added.
Greenpeace has now filed a complaint with Norway’s Petroleum & Energy Ministry, with its lawyers claiming the enforcement of such a safety zone was in breach of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) that guarantees foreign vessels freedom of navigation in Norway’s Exclusive Economic Zone, which extends 200 kilometres offshore.
The group also stated a safety zone can only be established around artificial islands, installations and structures, and not in open water, and that the authorities failed to give adequate notice of the establishment of the zone as required under the convention.
The latest legal move by the group follows the rejection by the authorities of an earlier complaint seeking to halt drilling at Apollo on the grounds that a potential oil spill could reach the Bear Island nature reserve about 175 kilometres farther north and also encroach on the Arctic ice edge.
Greenpeace has claimed the well is in breach of Norwegian regulations for drilling in the vicinty of Arctic ice.
Statoil has now gained official clearance to drill the controversial well in the Hoop area, which means it will be able to start work with the rig imminently.