Greenpeace activists stage oil rig protest

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The Independent Online

Environmental activists managed to get on board an oil exploration rig in Arctic waters today as part of an ongoing protest against drilling.

Greenpeace said 18 activists climbed onto the Leiv Eiriksson rig off the coast of Greenland to demand details of how the operator would respond to any oil spill.

Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy said drilling was suspended after the protesters breached a restricted area on the rig.

Activists launched from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza in five inflatable speedboats from outside an 500 metre exclusion zone set up by Danish authorities.

Campaigner Ben Ayliffe said: "Cairn Energy is hiding its oil spill response plan so we're going to the one place where there must be a copy of it.

"It's obvious why Cairn won't tell the world how it would clean up a BP-style oil spill here in the Arctic, and that's because it can't be done.

"Experts say the freezing temperatures and remote location mean a deep water blow-out in this stunning pristine environment would be an irreversible disaster.

"If they published the plan, the dangers of investing in such a high risk venture would be laid bare. We have to draw a line in the ice and stop the Arctic oil rush."

Cairn announced this week that it had begun drilling in two wells in the region.

The two wells are approximately 100 miles and 185 miles off Nuuk, the capital of Greenland. Each drilling operation is in water deeper than 2,953ft.

The drilling had been delayed by two Greenpeace protesters who occupied the company's 53,000-tonne drilling vessel, operated on behalf of Cairn Energy.

The protesters, who hung from the underside of the rig in an Arctic survival pod and had enough supplies to keep them there for 10 days, were removed by Danish police.

Cairn has asked a court in the Netherlands to legally prevent Greenpeace from disrupting any future deep-sea drilling operations.

In a statement, the company said: "Cairn confirms that members of Greenpeace have boarded the semi submersible drilling vessel, the Leiv Eiriksson, owned by Ocean Rig. The Leiv Eiriksson, a fifth generation semi submersible, is taking part in Cairn's 2011 exploration programme offshore Greenland, where the Company is operating at the invitation of the Greenland Government.

"The protesters have breached the safety exclusion zone and entered a restricted area on the rig. In accordance with the strict Health and Safety practices employed in this drilling programme and in order to ensure safe operating conditions, drilling has been suspended.

"The Greenland authorities, who removed two protesters, earlier this week have been alerted about this latest incident.

"Cairn respects the rights of individuals and organisations to express their views in a safe and peaceful manner but would be concerned with any action that presents a risk to the safety of people and/or equipment."