Chevron has appealed to Greenpeace to cease its “foolhardy” direct action off Bressay immediately, offering talks to address the pressure group’s concerns about oil drilling.
The oil company condemned this morning’s “reckless publicity stunt” in which two protesters climbed the anchor chains of the Stena Carron drilling ship and secured themselves inside a tent dangling over the sea.
They have supplies with them to prolong their efforts to stop the ship leaving to start drilling in the Lagavulin field about 160 miles north-west of Shetland near the UK-Faroe median line.
The surprise raid was mounted after a Greenpeace team quietly slipped away from their closely monitored campaign ship Esperanza in Aberdeen and travelled to Shetland on the NorthLink ferry.
They used speedboats to reach the 228-metre-long Stena Carron’s anchorage off the north end of Bressay, where she is being tended by the oil support ships Esvagt Supporter and Island Champion.
Greenpeace said it moved in this morning when there was a sign that the drill ship was about to move off. She has been dominating the north Lerwick skyline for 17 days.
However Chevron said this afternoon there had been no immediate plans for the ship to leave and the ship’s schedule was “currently undetermined”.
Spokeswoman Elaine Campbell said preparations were still taking place to prepare the crew and carry out safety checks prior to embarking on the drilling programme.
This afternoon the 70-metre Esperanza was east of Sumburgh Head, apparently steaming up to join the protest, although she was showing a close interest in the Foinaven shuttle tanker Petronordic.
Chevron said the Stena Carron was going about its lawful business when Greenpeace swooped. “This kind of action is foolhardy and demonstrates that Greenpeace is willing to put its volunteers at risk to carry out such reckless publicity stunts and we are concerned for the safety of those involved.
“We fully acknowledge and respect the right of Greenpeace or anyone else to express their views by peaceful and lawful action but deplore activities that could put people at risk.”
Offering talks with Greenpeace, Chevron said: “We are confident our operations are safe and we can drill deep water wells in the Atlantic margin safely and without environmental harm.”
The Stena Carron’s anchorage off Bressay is within Lerwick harbour limits. Lerwick Port Authority chief executive Sandra Laurenson said no action was being taken in relation to the drama.
The two activists who climbed up the anchor chains were members of the team which carried out a similar action on a rig in the Arctic last month.
Greenpeace claims that over 10,000 emails have been sent to UK energy secretary Chris Huhne, calling for a moratorium on deepwater drilling in UK waters following the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Greenpeace has also threatened the government with legal action in an effort to stop new licences being granted for deepwater drilling.
The House of Commons energy and climate change committee is currently carrying out an inquiry into the implications for Britain of the Gulf of Mexico disaster, including whether there should be a moratorium on deepwater drilling.
Experts have pointed out that the waters to the west of Shetland are much shallower than those in the Gulf and the UK industry is resisting a halt to drilling work on the grounds that the regulatory regime is much tougher here than in the United States. Lagavulin is in about 500 metres of water.
Speaking from the tent, one of the two protesters Anais Schneider, 29, said: “Shetland is so beautiful and an oil spill here could devastate this area. It’s time to go beyond oil. Our addiction is harming the climate, the natural world and our chances of building a clean energy future.”
The other climber, Victor Rask, 38, said: “David Cameron said his government would be the greenest ever, but he won’t even support a plan to protect our seas from a BP-style disaster.
“Instead of drilling for the last drops in fragile environments like this, oil companies should be developing the clean energy technologies we need to fight climate change and reduce our dependence on oil.
“We need a global ban on deep water drilling, and longer term we need a permanent shift away from fossil fuels towards clean energy solutions.”
The occupation comes two days before environment ministers from countries bordering the North Sea meet in Norway to discuss a German proposal to ban new deep water drilling.
One of Scotland’s two Green Party MSPs, Patrick Harvie, praised Greenpeace’s action. He said: “Greenpeace’s courageous intervention in Shetland today is a welcome reminder to politicians in other parties that the environmental movement will never stop holding them to account.
“This new round of deepwater drilling is both environmentally and economically reckless, and it must be stopped.”