Greenpeace has stepped up its war against deep water oil drilling by sending swimmers to block the progress of the Stena Carron.
The activists say they caught up with Chevron’s drill ship 100 miles north of Unst at lunchtime on Sunday.
Campaigners transfered from the Greenpeace ship Esperanza to an inflatable speedboat before heading towards the vessel and diving into the sea.
Since then they have continued to halt the Stena Carron‘s progress by sending waves of swimmers and campaigners in kayaks out in front of the drill ship.
The ship was headed to the Lagavulin oilfield, where it intends to drill an exploratory well in 500 metres of water once permits have been granted.
The campaigners say the action against the vessel will continue until the government places a ban on deep water drilling.
Greenpeace is threatening legal action against the UK government in order to stop the granting of new permits that allow the activity to take place.
It comes after activists attached a live-in steel pod to the drill ship’s anchor chain as she sat behind Bressay last week.
The protesters said they could hold out in the pod for a month if they needed to, but were forced to end their protest when Chevron was granted a court order. The company said it needed to move the vessel because of rough seas.
Protester Leila Deen told The Shetland Times: “We would like to make clear we have completely halted the Stena Carron.
“The Stena Carron snuck off on Friday night at 11pm while we were still unpacking the pod. We pursued the ship and caught up with it and deployed two inflatables.
“We deployed four swimmers initially, and the Stena Carron cruised past those swimmers, so we packed them up sped on by and deployed them again.
“It’s just crazy that it’s up to us to do this, when this oil ship should be stopped by a government ban on deep water drilling.
“But we’re going to continue blocking the Carron for as long as we can. All the swimmers are in high spirits and determined to keep going, because we need to go beyond oil to stop climate change.”
Ms Deen said swimmers were fully equipped with survival suits and lifejackets with strobes on their arms.
The campaign against deep water drilling has been running since the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Meanwhile a spokesman for Chevron said the Greenpeace action was putting the safety of its own volunteers at risk, and appealed for the protest to stop.
“This latest act is extremely dangerous and once again demonstrates that Greenpeace is willing to put its volunteers at risk by entering the path of the Stena Carron while the vessel is in transit,” the spokesman said.
“Chevron is concerned for the safety of those involved and, while we acknowledge and respect the right of Greenpeace to express its views by peaceful and lawful action, we condemn activities that put people at risk.
“We hoped that Greenpeace would continue to respect the interdict granted by the court, which prohibits the activists from returning to the Stena Carron, but this gesture shows no regard for the law and for the safety of all involved.
“Chevron’s first priority is safety; we are confident our operations are safe and we can drill deep water wells in the Atlantic margin safely and without environmental harm.”