Europe rises in protest at Shell dumping

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GREENPEACE'S international protest against the planned deep-sea dumping by Shell of the Brent Spar oil rig came to mainland Britain yesterday. Activists picketed Shell petrol stations across the country.

As the rig continued its slow progress across the Atlantic to the dumping site, with two Greenpeace members on board and a Shell flotilla trying to use water-cannon to prevent them being supplied by helicopter, activists launched a petrol boycott campaign like the one that has swept through Germany and the Netherlands in recent days.

Protesters carried banners outside garages, highlighting the effects they claim the dumping will have on the ocean environment. The 14,500- ton rig is estimated to contain at least 130 tons of toxic substances, including 100 tons of partially-radioactive oil sludge.

A Greenpeace spokesman said: "We are asking people to use their purchasing power to persuade Shell that their dumping of the Brent Spar is totallyunacceptable."

In Germany, the garage boycott campaign has gained enormous support. Chancellor Helmut Kohl tackled John Major about the issue at the G7 summit which ended in Nova Scotia yesterday. Shell filling stations across Germany are deserted.

There have also been violent protests, with petrol bombs thrown at garages. One in seven petrol stations in Germany belongs to Shell, and the managers of Shell Germany talk of "drastic losses" as the result of the boycott. In Germany, Shell's action is almost universally regarded as an environmental crime.

But although there are increas-ing signs of strain within the multinational, yesterday Dr Chris Faye, chairman and chief executive of Shell UK, refused to back down. He said: "It is very difficult to have second thoughts when you have carried out three years of studies, you are conforming to international law, to rules that have been drawn up on the North Sea and agreed to by all European countries."

There had been "a lot of alarmist action and a lot of misleading information," he said, adding that environmentally, deep-sea dumping of the rig isthe best option for disposal.

A helicopter chartered by Greenpeace flew through powerful water-cannon spray again yesterday, dropping fresh supplies and dry clothing to the two activists who were dropped on board the Brent Spar on Friday. The rig is being towed by two tugs at between one and two knots and is now surrounded by three supply vessels which are constantly spraying water to prevent the Greenpeace ship Altair from coming close. The activists on the Brent Spar reported that the spray is so strong that it has burst windows and flooded much of the rig.

Meanwhile Shell has postponed plans to celebrate the 25th anniversary of its "Better Britain" campaign, the flagship for its carefully cultivated green image, which was due to be held on Wednesday, the day that the Brent Spar is expected to be sunk. Peter Hunt, the director of the company's community programmes, says that the debate over the platform "has unfortunately created an atmosphere in which it is simply inappropriate, at the present time, to celebrate the very real achievements of the Shell Better Britain campaign." Leading article, page 26