Greenpeace set to profit from Brent Spar success

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The Independent Online
Greenpeace's finances and its number of supporters are set to be dramatically boosted by the successful campaign against the Brent Spar oil rig, the pressure group revealed yesterday.

Thousands of people have contacted the organisation offering to become paying supporters since Shell decided not to sink the redundant oil storage buoy, said resources director Steven Thomson.

The organisation, which has over 300,000 supporters in Britain, has moved to capitalise on the public goodwill by taking out press advertisements proclaiming its success but pointing out that more funds are needed.

''It's still too early to say what it means in terms of extra money, but we're hopeful,'' said Mr Thomson. The suggested annual payment from an adult supporter (the pressure group does not have members) is pounds 14.50 and pounds 7 for the unwaged.

The timing could not be better because June is always Greenpeace's most difficult month financially. Cash flows out in the first half of the year and in during the second. At this time of year the organisation is usually struggling to avoid an overdraft because it wants to avoid ever owing a bank money as a matter of principle.

Last night, the Brent Spar was under tow from the proposed dump site in the north-east Atlantic to a point north of Shetland. Shell UK was still talking to the Norwegian government about anchoring the rig in a fjord for the winter while it prepares an onshore disposal plant.

Later this week, defence ministers will answer questions about Royal Navy plans to help seize the Brent Spar, which was occupied by four Greenpeace activists last Tuesday when Shell abandoned plans to sink it.

It is understood that a small contingent of Royal Marines had been flown to the Outer Hebrides. They had begun planning and studying how to get on board the structure.

Last night, the Ministry of Defence would make no official comment, but, behind the scenes, it was stressed that Navy personnel would only have been used if requested by civilian authorities such as the police. Furthermore, they would have been there to help prevent a breach of the peace and any risk to life and limb rather than taking the lead in evicting Greenpeace.

Callum MacDonald, the Labour MP for the Western Isles who asked the questions in Parliament, said: ''This was a civil, peaceful protest and it's quite outrageous that there were plans to use military forces to end it.''

t Supporters of Friends of the Earth, Britain's other leading environmental pressure group, ''confiscated'' mahogany from five timber merchants in England and Wales, at the weekend and handed it in at police stations. The Friends argue that a great deal of mahogany is logged illegally and in effect stolen from Amazonian tribespeople.