|MY Arctic Sunrise. Photo credit: Greenpeace
By Anders Lorenzen
Russia has denied environmental campaign organisation Greenpeace’s icebreaker the MY Arctic Sunrise access to the increasingly busy Northern Sea Route (NSR) in the Arctic circle.
Multiple vessels contracted by Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft and US partner ExxonMobil are currently conducting seismic testing and geological work in the Kara Sea area of the NSR in their preparation for offshore oil drilling, and Greenpeace is interested in peacefully protesting and observing these activities first hand.
The Arctic Sunrise has a higher ice classification than many of the 400 vessels that have been granted access to the NSR including vessels Rosneft and ExxonMobil vessels, and Greenpeace believes the decisions stems from Rosneft wanting to prevent exposure of it’s Arctic activities. Arctic campaigner Christy Ferguson has commented:
“This is a thinly veiled attempt to stifle peaceful protest and keep international attention away from Arctic oil exploration in Russia. The Arctic Sunrise is a fully equipped icebreaker with significant experience of operating in these conditions, while the oil companies operating here are taking unprecedented risks in an area teeming with polar bears, whales, and other Arctic wildlife.”
She also hinted at the lukewarm relationships between the Russian state and the oil companies:
“The decision to deny us entry to the Kara sea is completely unjustified, and raises serious questions about the level of collusion between the Russian authorities and the oil companies themselves.“
Last year Greenpeace began a global campaign to protect the Arctic, which has so far attracted nearly four million signatures. The campaign was originally directed against Shell and their plans to drill around Alaska’s northern coast last year, who due to several difficulties have been forced to delay plans. However Greenpeace are also targeting other gas and oil companies like Gazprom, Statoil and Rosneft who have signalled their attempt to drill for oil in the Arctic. Despite lack of cooperation from the Russian authorities, Christy Ferguson has said in a recent blog post that Greenpeace would defy the ban and and enter the NSR anyway.
|Greenpeace defying Russia’s government orders not to enter the NSR. Photo source: Greenpeace
In related news, this week Finland became the first Arctic country to echo Greenpeace’s demand for turning the area around the North Pole into a global sanctuary.