Norwegian coastguard boards Greenpeace ship in defiance of international maritime law
Barents Sea, May 30th 2014 -- The Norwegian coastguard tonight boarded the Greenpeace ship Esperanza outside of the country’s territorial waters to end a high profile 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 Coastguard 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 Coastguard.” 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.
“I’m proud of what we’ve achieved. Statoil has had to put its plans to drill the northernmost well in the world on hold since we began the protest 89 hours ago. Now we are apparently being taken by the authorities and our occupation ended. Now it’s up to everyone to stand up against Statoil and all the other companies wanting to exploit the Arctic, instead of protect it.”
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. The full text of Greenpeace’s appeal is available below.
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.
Pictures from right before boarding available on: http://photo.greenpeace.org/C.aspx?VP3=ViewBox_VPage&ALID=27MZIF3CYY_Y&CT=Album