Greenpeace pair airlifted on to Brent Spar rig

Battle of the Brent Spar: Greenpeace seizes initative in struggle with Shell, but multi-national still plans to sink rig in deep water
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The Independent Online
NICHOLAS SCHOON

London

and PAUL WALLACE

Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Greenpeace was back on board the Brent Spar last night after two protesters were airlifted onto the rig in a daring helicopter manoeuvre.

The reoccupation of the giant, redundant, oil-storage buoy happened shortly before the German Chancellor, Helmut Kohl, sought out the Prime Minister, John Major, at the G7 summit yesterday and told him of German objections to the sea-dumping of the Brent Spar.

Mr Major said it was the best option and that the Government was acting in accordance with international law in allowing the owners, Shell, to sink the Brent Spar 150 miles north-west of the Outer Hebrides.

Afterwards, he said: "Well, even the best of friends cannot agree on every occasion. The company is right to dispose of it [the platform] in this way."

Two activists, whom Greenpeace refused to name, jumped from the aircraft onto the Brent Spar's helideck yesterday, while the 14,500-ton structure was being towed by two tugs from Shell's Brent oil field, north-east of Shetland, to the 6,000ft-deep dump site.

The protesters got on board using the helicopter at the second attempt. During the first, Shell oil-field support vessels fired spray from fire hoses to stop the aircraft reaching the Spar. Small boats chartered by Greenpeace to follow the Spar failed to get anyone on board.

The helicopter pilot then tried again and the support vessels failed to spray in time.Greenpeace complained that the spraying had threatened the lives of the helicopter's crew.

The international condemnation of Shell's deep-sea dumping continued yesterday, but the oil multinational said it had no plans to change plans. The Spar has now covered more than half its final journey at a speed of less than 2 mph and is due to arrive at the dump site around Tuesday next week.

The greatest opposition is in Germany, where calls for a boycott of Shell petrol have hit sales. Yesterday, one of its stations in Hamburg was firebombed. Another was shot at earlier this week.

Before the explosive-charges which will puncture the buoyancy tanks can be detonated, Shell will have to remove the two Greenpeace occupiers and keep other activists in their small craft away from the Spar.

In a statement, Shell UK said: "It is of deep concern to Shell that both government and public opinion in a number of European countries remain unconvinced of the merits of the disposal plan". The statement was sent to Shell subsidiaries around Europe, but poor translation into German made it appear that the oil company was postponing the action. Shell UK had to reiterate that there had been no change of plan.

Amsterdam-based Greenpeace International and the German arm of the environmental group are understood to have played the leading roles in organising the expensive and dramatic Brent Spar protests.

The helicopter used yesterday was chartered in Germany. A new company was set up to finance the operation, Greenpeace Deutsch Sektion EV.

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