Greenpeace on Monday sent a protest ship to meet a Russiantanker carrying the first oil drilled offshore in the environmentally fragile Arctic.The ship, Rainbow Warrior, is captained by Peter Willcox, who was among
campaigners detained by Russian authorities last year after staging a high-profileprotest against Arctic drilling.
The vessel set sail from Rotterdam on Monday afternoon, Greenpeace said, and willseek to escort to harbour the Russian tanker Mikhail Ulyanov, which is delivering oilpurchased by French energy giant Total.The oil was drilled at the Prirazlomnaya platform, an offshore rig owned by Russianenergy giant Gazprom and the site of Greenpeace's protest last September.The protest, which saw two campaigners attempt to scale the rig, prompted Russian
authorities to seize Greenpeace's Dutch-flagged Arctic Sunrise boat and detain the30 activists and journalists on board.Greenpeace argues that the Gazprom rig is an environmental catastrophe waiting tohappen that risks ruining the pristine Arctic ecology of the southern Barents Seawhere the deposit is located.The activists had faced lengthy prison terms before Moscow announced amnesties.“We want to escort the ship into the harbour," at Rotterdam, Greenpeace activistPatric Salize told AFP by telephone from aboard the ship.He declined to say what kind of protest action the group might have planned.There are 23 people on board the vessel, which may meet the Russian tanker onTuesday night, another campaigner Willem Wiskerke told AFP, also from aboard theRainbow Warrior.“We do not disclose in advance what we are going to do, but I can assure you we willsend a clear message to the world that this oil is very dangerous,” Wiskerke said.Greenpeace has accused France's Total of hypocrisy for buying the Arctic oil, afterits CEO Christophe de Margerie said in 2012 that his company would not drill in thefragile region.A Total spokesman in Paris confirmed the controversial purchase but insisted thecompany would not itself be drilling in the Arctic."The environmental risks are too high," the spokesman said, asking not to benamed.Greenpeace oil campaigner Ben Ayliffe accused Total of "real hypocrisy".“Its CEO has already pledged not to drill in the icy waters of the far north, and yethe is apparently happy to buy the stuff if Gazprom takes on the risk," Ayliffe said ina statement.
"Mr. De Margerie cannot have his cake and eat it.”Greenpeace is suing Russia before the European Court of Human Rights for what itsays was the illegal detention of its activists as it breached the right to freedom ofexpression.Russian authorities are still holding the Arctic Sunrise icebreaker.