Drilling Halted in Arctic…read more…..

Exxon Said to Halt Arctic Oil Well Drilling on Sanctions

By Alan Katz, Joe Carroll, Mikael Holter and Stephen Bierman Sep 19, 2014 4:38 AM ET

Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and OAO Rosneft halted drilling on an offshore oil well intended as the first step in unlocking billions of barrels of crude in Russia’s remote Arctic, according to people familiar with the project.

Work stopped just a few days after the U.S. and European Union barred companies from helping Russia exploit Arctic, deep-water or shale-oil fields, said three people with knowledge of the rig’s operations who asked not to be named since they weren’t authorized to speak about the project. The U.S. sanctions, meant to punish Russia for escalating tensions in Ukraine, gave American companies until Sept. 26 to stop all restricted drilling and testing services.

Related:

Exxon, Rosneft and Seadrill Ltd. (SDRL)’s North Atlantic Drilling (NADL) unit are under the gun to finish or temporarily seal the $700 million well off Russia’s northern coast before the sanctions deadline, said Chris Kettenmann, chief energy strategist at Prime Executions Inc., a brokerage firm in New York. With just eight days left before sanctions require Exxon to stop all Arctic work with its Russian partner Rosneft, the project probably is on hold until next year at the earliest, he said.

“This has been one of the most-watched wells in the industry, so this is a huge deal,” said Kettenmann, who has a sell rating on Exxon’s shares. “There’s a hard stop here.”


Photographer: Andrey Rudakov/Bloomberg

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, has been unmoved. On Aug. 9, just days after the… Read More

Building Industry

Rosneft fell as much as 1.5 percent in Moscow, trading 0.8 percent lower at 236.9 rubles a share as of 11:26 a.m. local time. Seadrill dropped as much as 1.5 percent in Oslo, before paring its loss to 1.1 percent. Exxon closed 0.5 percent lower yesterday at $96.6 a share.

Waging Financial War

Since the Soviet Union broke up a quarter-century ago, U.S. and European companies have helped build Russia’s energy industry in the hope of capturing some of its 75 billion barrels of reserves. The drilling halt of the Universitetskaya-1 well is the first tangible evidence that sanctions are now slowing that investment.

The well was the opening shot at tapping an estimated 9 billion barrels of crude deep under the floor of the Kara Sea, worth about $885 billion at current prices. It’s key both to Russia’s quest to find new oil fields to replace its declining Soviet-era wells and to Exxon’s efforts to halt falling production.

Legal Compliance

“We are still assessing the sanctions, but will comply with all laws and regulations,” Dick Keil, an Exxon spokesman, said in a telephone interview. Keil declined to comment further. Rosneft’s press service declined to comment.

The U.S. and Europe have imposed a series of escalating sanctions against Russia since its annexation of Crimea in March and because of support for separatists in eastern Ukraine. The restrictions have pushed Russia’s economy to the verge of a recession, and the impact could last two to three years, former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin said this week.

Putin has been unmoved. On Aug. 9, just days after the U.S. and EU announced that they would restrict the export of technology needed for Arctic, shale and deep-sea exploration, Putin — speaking via satellite — personally ordered the start of drilling on the well, Russia’s first in the Arctic Ocean. Exxon’s chief of Russia operations attended the event.

Expanded sanctions last week added a ban on services provided to such projects, effectively putting an end to Exxon’s continued work on the well.

Safe Exit

No official decision has yet been made on whether to try to restart drilling this year or wait until next year, two of the people with knowledge of the situation said. Regardless, Exxon and Rosneft have probably run out of time to get anything more done in 2014, said Sigbjoern Sangesland, professor in the Petroleum Engineering and Applied Geophysics department at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

Exxon must leave itself enough time to safely shut the well before abandoning it.

“I would think that they would stop where they are now,” said Sangesland. “If they have a week left, they need that time to set plugs in the well and pull out the blowout preventer and anchor.”

Rosneft has already felt the sting of sanctions, which have affected its financing and ability to acquire technology. Chief Executive Officer and long-time Putin ally Igor Sechin, 54, has also been personally sanctioned, banned from travel to the U.S. in April.

To contact the reporters on this story: Alan Katz in Washington at akatz5@bloomberg.net; Joe Carroll in Chicago at jcarroll8@bloomberg.net; Mikael Holter in Oslo at mholter2@bloomberg.net; Stephen Bierman in Moscow at sbierman1@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Sara Forden at sforden@bloomberg.net; Susan Warren at susanwarren@bloomberg.net Dylan Griffiths, Tony Barrett

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What’s ahead for the Arctic

Ponds ‘predict Arctic sea-ice melt’

By Jonathan Amos Science correspondent, BBC News

Melt ponds on sea ice As the sea ice melts, ponds of water collect on top of the floes

A UK team believes it can now make skilful predictions of how much sea ice will melt during Arctic summers.

The scientists say the amount of water ponding on top of the floes as they warm in the spring has been shown to be an excellent indicator.

Using their technique, the Reading University researchers reckon the minimum ice extent this September will be about 5.4 million square km.

It is about the same as at the end of the melt season last year.

The floes in the far north are the subject of intense study currently because of their rapid summer decline.

Their extent has diminished from about 7 million square km in the 1990s to less than 5 million square km in five of the past seven years, with a record minimum of 3.6 million square km being set in 2012.

But the year-to-year variation is large and the computer models in general have failed to capture the behaviour.

Dark cover

“The sort of three-month prediction we’re making would be useful for people who need to do operations in the Arctic, such as shipping companies for navigation purposes,” explained Prof Daniel Feltham, who leads the NERC Centre for Polar Observation and Modelling team at Reading.

“But the physics we’re introducing will also, hopefully, help improve the climate models that look longer term,” he told BBC News.

Sea ice The current rate of decline in September sea-ice cover is running at about 13% per decade

Prof Feltham and colleagues have found a strong correlation between the fraction of the floes covered by pond water in May and the eventual sea-ice extent seen in September.

The physical link is the change in reflectiveness, or albedo, brought about by the standing water.

The ponds are darker than bare ice and therefore absorb more of the Sun’s energy, promoting further melting.

Prof Feltham’s team has developed a model to forecast the evolution of melt ponds in the Arctic and has incorporated this into more general climate sea-ice models.

Satellite records show that the year with smallest pond fraction in late spring (11% in 1996) had the biggest sea ice extent in September; and the year with the largest pond fraction (34% in 2012) featured the all-time low extent come the autumn.

The team published its ideas in a recent edition of the journal Nature Climate Change.

Southern differences

Now, it has put out its first open forecast for this September of 5.4 million square km, give or take half a million.

It compares with 5.35 million square km averaged across September last year.

“What could knock our prediction off course? Weather conditions, certainly. If we have anomalously cold conditions, we would expect the ice extent to be higher; or if we had very stormy conditions, like they did in August 2012 – that could diverge the ice and encourage more melting,” he said.

In contrast to the Arctic, the Antarctic is currently showing an alternative trend, with the winter maximum extent growing to record levels.

How useful the Reading technique would be in predicting the region’s summer minimums is uncertain.

The factors that control the floes in the south are different to those in the north, and already they diminish to very low extents by autumn as a matter of course anyway.

A New Zealand-led team recently demonstrated that the choppiness of Southern Ocean water could have a moderating impact on the growth of sea ice around Antarctica.

The Reading number has been submitted to Arctic Research Consortium of the United States (ARCUS) Sea Ice Prediction Network. This has become a kind of annual academic “competition” run between scientists who study the Arctic to see whose forecast most closely matches the eventual outcome.

Jonathan.Amos-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk and follow me on Twitter: @BBCAmos

Stepping up the weather & ice forecasts!

NOAA’s new Arctic Action Plan calls for enhanced weather and sea-ice forecasts

Yereth Rosen

Walrus hauled out on the sea ice near King Island. The island is located in the Bering Sea, an increasingly important shipping route in the Arctic, which is the subject of a new NOAA report. Loren Holmes photo

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has launched a five-year science initiative to better understand the impact of Arctic weather and changing climate on the mid-latitude zones of the United States, where weather extremes have become common in recent years.

That science initiative is part of NOAA’s contribution to the National Strategy for the Arctic Region released by President Obama last May and the implementation plan released by the White House in January, the agency said on Monday.

NOAA, the federal agency responsible for weather forecasts and stewardship of marine resources, released its Arctic Action Plan, a document that outlines current and future programs aimed at improving oversight of the land in northern Alaska and the marine waters off the state’s northern and western coasts.

The action plan focuses on these goals:

• Better sea-ice and weather forecasts and warnings;

• More scientific research to understand Arctic climate change and effects;

• Improved management and stewardship of Alaska’s marine and coastal resources;

• Improved support of Arctic communities; and

• Increased work with international organizations like the Arctic Council.

NOAA’s work in the Arctic has been hampered by a shortage of data, the action plan said.

“Weather analysis and prediction capabilities are currently poorer in the Arctic than in other parts of the United States,” the plan said. “Major challenges for long-term modeling being addressed by NOAA include the lack of good physical data regarding winds and clouds. Although accurate forecasts and models depend upon the availability of observations, existing observations in the Arctic are very limited in both geographic scope and frequency.”

To address those problems, NOAA is planning to increase the number of data-collecting sensors on land, at sea and on satellites. Better real-time data will help NOAA better predict immediate dangers in the Arctic, such as rapid ice form-up and storm surges, the new plan said. One important task is improving resolution of sea-ice data so that finer-scale information can be acquired, according to the plan.

The plan calls for improved science, as well, to meet NOAA’s marine stewardship missions, such as additional trawl surveys to understand fish populations and more research on vulnerable marine mammal species.

The plan also calls for additional cooperative work with organizations from other countries — Russia, Japan and Norway, for example — as well as multinational organizations. One specific goal is to work with the International Maritime Organization to complete the final version of a pending Polar Code to protect Arctic waters from pollution and to mitigate safety hazards.

NOAA’s Arctic programs encompass a broad geographic scope. In addition to land in Alaska and waters above the Arctic Circle — the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas — the plan covers subarctic regions in interior and western Alaska and out to the western Bering Sea.

Currently, about 61 percent of NOAA’s Arctic budget goes to stewardship and management of natural resources, a mission that includes oversight of fisheries and marine species. Sea-ice research accounted for 3.3 percent of NOAA’s 2013 Arctic funding, according to the plan released Monday.

Ice Loss in the Arctic

Greenland’s ice loss nearly tripled in a decade

A formerly stable part of Greenland’s ice sheet in the northeast has been losing ice at an accelerating rate.

Scientists have known Greenland’s ice sheet has been thinning for decades, but for the first time, they’ve found that’s even occurring in its northeast region that had been stable for 25 years. Since 2003, the northeast’s ice loss has nearly tripled.

“We’re seeing an acceleration of ice loss,” says study co-author Michael Bevis, professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University. “Now, there’s more ice leaving than snow arriving.” He says the rapid change in the northeast region “surprised everyone.”

The decline of Greenland’s ice sheet, which is second in size only to Antarctica’s and covers 80% of Greenland’s surface, has been a major contributor to global sea level rise over the past 20 years. The study, published Sunday in the journal Nature Climate Change, says it’s accounted for nearly one-sixth of annual sea level rise.

Largely because of rising air temperatures, an outlet glacier in the northeast has retreated at a pace of 12.4 miles over the past decade. That’s much faster than the Jakobshavnglacier’s retreat in southwest Greenland — 21.7 miles over the past 150 years.

How do scientists track this? They look at ice thickness measurements from four satellites as well as data from the Greenland GPS Network or GNET, which has 50 coastal stations that weigh the ice sheet like a giant bathroom scale.

They found that the northeast Greenland ice sheet started losing stability in 2003. Several particularly warm summers triggered increasing melting and calving events including several last year when chunks of ice fell from glaciers into the water.

This northeast region lost about 10 billion tons of ice per year from April 2003 to April 2012, the study says. The result is more water flowing into the oceans.

What particularly worries scientists is the impact on the rest of Greenland, because the northeast’s ice stream stretches more than 370 miles into the continent’s center and connects to the heart of its ice reservoir.

“It has the potential of significantly changing the total mass balance of the ice sheet in the near future,” says study co-author Shfaqat Abbas Khan, senior researcher at the National Space Institute at the Technical University of Denmark. He and Bevis were joined by nine scientists from three other U.S. universities, the United Kingdom, Hong Kong and the Netherlands.

Alaska vs. Government of the United States

Alaska Sues U.S. Over Its Rejection of Oil Exploration Plan (1)

March 14, 2014

Alaska sued the Obama administration over its rejection of an oil and gas exploration plan for the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as the state seeks to determine the extent of energy resources in the area.

Alaska Governor Sean Parnell said exploration for the coastal plain of the wildlife area was mandated by a federal Alaska land conservation act. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service refused to review the plan, citing a legal opinion by the Interior Department issued in 1987 claiming provisions of the law had expired, Parnell said in a complaint filed in federal court in Anchorage, Alaska.

“It is both disappointing and disturbing that the Obama administration, which claims that it is pursuing an ‘all of the above’ energy policy, is afraid to let the people of the United States learn more about ANWR’s oil and gas resources,” Parnell, a Republican, said in a statement. “The modern technology that we are seeking to use is responsibly utilized all across the North Slope with extremely limited environmental impact, and would dramatically improve our understanding of ANWR’s resources.”

The state is proposing to study a portion of the reserve known as Area 1002, which Alaska officials said covers 3,000 square miles (4,800 square kilometers) and is less than a tenth of the entire Arctic reserve. Estimates from 30 years ago put the median volume of oil in the refuge at 10.4 billion barrels, according to the state of Alaska.

Interior Secretary

Parnell sent a letter to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in 2013 outlining a plan for a shared $150 million effort. He offered to seek $50 million from state lawmakers, according to the lawsuit. Alaska’s plan would use advanced three-dimensional seismic imaging to find the “extent and accessibility of the significant oil and gas resources” in the coastal plain of ANWR, Parnell said.

The Fish and Wildlife Service’s regional director rejected the plan without evaluating its compliance with regulations, according to the lawsuit.

Parnell claims the U.S. has violated the federal Alaska Interest Lands Conservation Act and seeks a court order forcing the government to review the plan, blocking it from applying the expiration dates it has cited and declaring its refusal to do so as “arbitrary and capricious.”

The complaint names Jewell and the Fish and Wildlife Service as defendants. Jessica Kershaw, a spokeswoman for the Interior Department, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail message seeking comment on the lawsuit.

The case is Alaska v. Jewel, 14-cv-00048, U.S. District Court, District of Alaska.

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in federal court in San Francisco at kgullo@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net Peter Blumberg, Andrew Dunn

Fishing in the Arctic

With ice melting, U.S. pushes for limits on fishing in Arctic Ocean

Arctic Ocean

U.S. officials are pushing for a moratorium on commercial fishing in the international waters of the Arctic Ocean. (Pew Charitable Trust International Arctic Program / February 22, 2014)

SEATTLE — U.S. officials are heading to Greenland for a three-day meeting to persuade other Arctic nations to place a moratorium on high-seas fishing in the Arctic Ocean, where climate change is melting the permanent ice cap and allowing trawlers in for the first time in human history.

The United States is proposing an agreement “that would close the international waters of the Arctic Ocean to commercial fishing until there is a good scientific foundation on which to base management of any potential fishing,” said David Benton, a member of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission, who will be part of the negotiations in Nuuk, Greenland.

The first step toward protecting the Arctic Ocean and its fish population, which has never been studied, is for the five nations bordering the body of water to reach an agreement on a moratorium. To date, the United States, Canada and Greenland are on board, but Russia and Norway have not joined in.

All coastal countries control the fisheries within 200 miles of their own coastlines. The high seas beyond that zone do not belong to any nation, are not covered by any regulations and can only be protected by international agreement.

Once the five Arctic nations are in accord on a fishing moratorium, Benton said, they would then reach out to other countries with major commercial fishing fleets, such as China, Japan and Korea, to negotiate full protection for the central Arctic Ocean.

Benton, who advises the U.S. negotiating team, said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the Arctic nations would reach agreement during the three-day meeting, which begins Monday.

“The Arctic is experiencing a fairly rapid rate of change,” said Benton, as the permanent ice melts. “That’s potentially causing large changes in the ecosystem, but we don’t understand what’s going on up there. If we want to do things right, this is the approach we should be taking.”

In 2009, the United States adopted its own Arctic Fishery Management Plan, closing American waters north of Alaska to commercial fishing until scientific research proves that the fishery is sustainable.

“What the United States did in its waters was a precautionary action that takes into account how Arctic warming is changing the ecosystem faster than science can keep up with it,” said Scott Highleyman, director of the international Arctic program for the Pew Charitable Trusts.

“There are no stock surveys or scientific assessments for fish there,” Highleyman said. “You don’t want to fish a place where you don’t know the fish population dynamics. Any time we’ve done that, it led to catastrophic overfishing.”

One example, Highleyman said, is the New England Atlantic cod fishery, which was shut down in the 1980s due to overfishing, costing 50,000 jobs.

There is much at stake in the central Arctic Ocean, of which about 1.1 million square miles are largely unregulated international waters. An open letter to the Arctic governments, signed by 2,000 scientists from around the world, notes the mysterious and fragile nature of the region.

If it is overfished, the scientists say, that will affect seals, whales and polar bears as well as the people who make the harsh region their home and rely on such creatures to feed their families.

“Until recently, the region has been covered with sea ice throughout the year, creating a physical barrier to the fisheries,” the scientists wrote. “In recent summers, however, the loss of permanent sea ice has left open water in as much as 40% of these international waters .… A commercial fishery in the central Arctic Ocean is now possible and feasible.”

Researchers launch ‘kelp watch’ to determine extent of Fukushima contamination

 by Jon Weiner

 

Researchers launch ‘kelp watch’ to determine extent of Fukushima contamination

 

(Phys.org) —Researchers from California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) and the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have launched “Kelp Watch 2014,” a scientific campaign designed to determine the extent of radioactive contamination of the state’s kelp forest from Japan’s damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant following the March 11, 2011, earthquake and tsunami.

 

 

Initiated by CSULB Biology Professor Steven L. Manley and the Berkeley Lab’s Head of Applied Nuclear Physics Kai Vetter, the project will rely on samples of Giant Kelp and Bull Kelp from along the California coast.

 

“The California kelp forest is a highly productive and complex ecosystem and a valuable state resource. It is imperative that we monitor this coastal forest for any radioactive contaminants that will be arriving this year in the ocean currents from Fukushima disaster,” said Manley, an expert in marine algae and kelp.

 

“I receive calls and emails weekly from concerned visitors and Californians about the effect of the Fukushima disaster on our California marine life,” he continued. “I tell them that the anticipated concentrations that will arrive are most likely very low but we have no data regarding its impact on our coastal ecosystem. Kelp Watch 2014 will provide an initial monitoring system at least in the short-term.”

 

The project includes the participation of 19 academic and government institutions and three other organizations/businesses. These participants will sample kelp from the entire California coastline as far north as Del Norte County and as far south as Baja California. The sampling will begin in mid-February and will end in late winter.

 

“What I have attempted to do is to organize marine scientists and educators from up and down the coastline to collect a large amount of kelp several times a year so that we can ascertain the amount of radioactive material entering our kelp forests,” Manley explained. “The response has been overwhelming. Recently I was contacted by a scientist in Washington State, who wants to send samples. I said ‘Sure.’”

 

Sampling will take place several times in 2014, and processed kelp samples will be sent to the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab’s Low Background Facility for detailed radionuclide analysis. As data becomes available it will be posted for public access.

 

“Working with Dr. Vetter and his group is a perfect collaboration because of their vast experience in measuring radioactivity in a variety of biological samples, including seaweeds,” Manley noted. “His enthusiasm and support of Kelp Watch 2014 has been most gratifying. If the kelp takes up the radioactive material, we should detect it.”

 

 

Vetter, who is also a professor of nuclear engineering at UC Berkeley, pointed out that “UC Berkeley and Berkeley Lab’s analysis within the new Kelp Watch initiative is part of a larger, ongoing, effort to measure Fukushima related radionuclides in a large variety of objects. We have two main objectives—to learn more about the distribution and transport of these materials in our world, and to make the results and explanations available to the public.

 

“Making our results available is a critical aspect of our work as it allows us to address concerns about Fukushima radiation levels and to explain the meaning and potential impact of these levels,” he added, “particularly in the context of the natural radiation background we are exposed to in our daily lives.”

 

Several institutions—Moss Landing Marine Laboratory (California State University), Marine Science Institute (UC Santa Barbara), Coastal and Marine Institute (San Diego State University) and CSULB—have volunteered to serve as regional processing centers where needed. Also participating are marine scientists from the Universidad Autónoma de Baja California in Baja Norte Mexico.

 

“At the present time this entire initiative is unfunded by any state or federal agency, with time and costs being ‘donated’ by the participants,” Manley said. “I hope that this changes. USC Sea Grant funded an earlier related study of mine and I hope it or some other funding agency will help fund this more extensive project.

“Still, more participants are signing up weekly,” he concluded. “We encourage scientists, educational institutions and other interested organizations to participate in the collecting and/or processing.”

http://worldhealinghq.com/2014/1091/

The Greenpeace Activists in Russia – update

Greenpeace International responds to allegations from Russian authorities

Feature story – October 28, 2013

On September 18th, the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise was involved in a peaceful protest at Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform, which is expected to become the first to produce oil from ice filled Arctic seas.

Over a day later, the Russian Coast Guard boarded the ship and seized the crew at gunpoint. The ship was then towed to the port of Murmansk. The crew of the Arctic Sunrise were held without charge during this time.

28 Greenpeace International activists, as well as a freelance videographer and a freelance photographer, have now been charged with piracy and face up to 15 years in prison.

A full timeline of events is here.

A series of allegations have been made about Greenpeace International, its activists and the peaceful protest at the Prirazlomnaya platform. This blog contains Greenpeace’s response to these allegations as well as links to further information.

Hooliganism

Russia’s Investigative Committee has said it will charge all 30 individuals from the Arctic Sunrise with hooliganism. As of October 24th, this still needs to be officially processed and each of the Arctic 30 formally notified.

Under the Russian Criminal Code, hooliganism is a criminal offence it could result in up to 7 years in jail.

Hooliganism under Russian law is defined as: “A gross violation of the public order which expresses patent contempt for society, attended by violence against private persons or by the threat of its use, and likewise by the destruction or damage of other people’s property.” This is clear from Article 213.

Based on this definition, the charge of hooliganism does not apply to the peaceful protest conducted by Greenpeace International. The activists did not display contempt and only employed peaceful means to attempt to hang a banner on an oil platform. The charge is as ridiculous as the charge of piracy.

For the charge of hooliganism to apply, the alleged offence must occur on Russian territory. The Arctic Sunrise was in the Exclusive Economic Zone, which is not Russian territory. International law holds that countries have no right to seize each others’ ships or people in international waters based on hooliganism charges. This is therefore another violation by the Investigative Committee against the Arctic 30.

Vladimir Chuprov of Greenpeace Russia said:
“The Arctic 30 are no more hooligans than they were pirates. This is still a wildly disproportionate charge that carries up to seven years in jail. It represents nothing less than an assault on the very principle of peaceful protest. Those brave men and women went to the Arctic armed with nothing more than a desire to shine a light on a reckless business. They should be with their families, not in a prison in Murmansk.”

Piracy

Russia’s Investigative Committee has charged all 30 individuals from the Arctic Sunrise with piracy committed by an organised group, a serious crime which carries a custodial sentence of up to 15 years in prison. A series of Russian and international law experts have strongly rejected the application of this charge to Greenpeace International’s peaceful protest. Their views can be read here.

Under the Russian Criminal Code, piracy can only be committed against a vessel, not an oil platform such as Prirazlomnaya, and applies only when seeking with violence or threats thereof to seize property – not to a peaceful protest. This is clear from Arcticle 227.

Similary, under international law piracy by definition can only apply to violent acts against ships or aircraft committed for private ends – not peaceful protests against oil platforms carried out to protect the environment. See Article 101 of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. The reference to piracy may be an effort to create a retroactive justification for the boarding of the vessel outside territorial waters. Piracy is one of the few grounds on which such a boarding is permitted.

Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo said:

“Peaceful activism is crucial when governments around the world have failed to respond to dire scientific warnings about the consequences of climate change in the Arctic and elsewhere.

“Any charge of piracy against peaceful activists has no merit in international law. We will not be intimidated or silenced by these absurd accusations and demand the immediate release of our activists.”

Activists ‘posed a threat’ to oil platform and surrounding environment

Both Gazprom officials and Russian authorities have suggested that the Greenpeace International activists may have posed a threat to the safe operation of the rig, or even the Arctic environment itself in the course of the peaceful protest.

Our activists are fully trained to conduct this kind of protest entirely safely. Neither the climbers nor the inflatable boats posed any risk to the vast oil platform, which is designed to withstand being hit by large chunks of ice and even (according to Gazprom itself) a direct hit from a torpedo. The activists carried nothing more than banners and ropes, and yet were met with knives and guns.

A full Greenpeace response to Gazprom’s claims about the safety of the protest can be viewed here.

Greenpeace inflatables ‘rammed’ Russian coast guard

A recent statement from Russian authorities states that “investigators are now identifying the people who deliberately rammed the coast guard boats preventing the coast guards from doing their job. By these actions the accused made an attempt on lives and health of the representatives of the authority.”

Greenpeace International has a record of entirely peaceful protest at sea stretching over 40 years, and this action was carried out according to these strong principles. Video footage released by the Investigative Committee itself (viewable here) clearly shows that Greenpeace inflatables posed no danger to the Russian Coast Guard. At one point a Greenpeace boat touches the side of a Coast Guard vessel at a slow speed, before turning 180 degrees. To suggest that any of these encounters represented a risk to the safety or lives of the Russian Coast Guard is absurd. Greenpeace views this as an attempt to deflect attention from the growing campaign in Russia and around the world to release the Arctic 30.

Read the full response to ramming allegations here

‘Narcotics’

A recent statement from Russia’s Investigative committee states that “during the examination of the ship the investigators seized narcotics (presumably opium straw and morphine)”.

Greenpeace absolutely rejects any suggestion that illegal drugs were present on the Arctic Sunrise. The ship had on board a fully qualified doctor with over ten years’ experience in Russian hospitals. Certain medical supplies are kept in a safe that only the captain and the doctor have access to, supplies which must be carried under maritime law. We know that the safe was broken into by the Russian authorities during the searching of the ship. We can only assume these are the medical supplies that the Russian security services are referring to.

A press release on the subject of alleged narcotics can be seen here.

‘Divers in the water’

According to media reports, Gazprom officials have claimed that “There were people working underwater [at the time of the protest] and any accident could have led to a catastrophe,” The veracity of this statement is seriously undermined by the fact that shots were fired from the platform itself, by unknown persons. If divers were present, this would have posed a far greater threat to their safety than a peaceful protest above the water level. In addition, there were no support boats nearby, nor was there an y evidence of diving flags, which would have been expected during this process.

See this video for evidence of weapons being fired by Russian agents into the water.

The Arctic Sunrise was ‘not in international waters’

‘The FSB has rejected the environmental campaign group’s assertion that the ship was in international waters when it was seized.’ (EN)

At the time of the boarding, the Arctic Sunrise was circling Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya platform at the three nautical mile limit, inside international waters. Coordinates confirm that the ship was inside of Russia’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) – and not Russian territorial waters – making this an illegal boarding by the Russian Coast Guard.

Legally speaking, the EEZ is similar to the high seas. Foreign vessels have a right to freedom of navigation there – they can enter without permission and go anywhere they want.

The ship’s coordinates at the time of arrest were 69 19.86′N 057 16.56′E, showing that the vessel was clearly outside of Russia’s territorial waters. This is 34 nautical miles from the Russian coast. These coordinates were received from ship’s security alert system and here are the coordinates from the ship’s Automatic Identification System (AIS).

Infographic - Illegal boarding of the Arctic Sunrise

Greenpeace ‘safety pod’

“Russian authorities have also suggested that a structure the activists approached the oil platform resembled a bomb.” (EN; RU)

As part of this protest, Greenpeace International carried a ‘safety pod’ to the Gazprom platform to shield the activists from things like water cannons.

According to Russian media reports, Gazprom has described the pod as ‘resembling a bomb’. The pod is a big foam tube measuring 3 meters long by 2 meters wide (about the size of a Mini), is painted in bright colours, and was made following a public competition.

Non-violence has been enshrined at the core of Greenpeace for more than 40 years. We engage in peaceful protests to expose environmental crimes. We posed no safety threat.

Read more about the safety pod here.

http://pod.greenpeace.org.uk/

Illegal scientific research activities

According to some reports, Russian authorities suspect that Greenpeace International was engaged in unauthorised marine scientific research near the Prirazlomnaya.

Greenpeace has a long tradition of facilitating research from its vessels, but that was not the case this time. Last year Greenpeace International conducted scientific work with a two-person submarine in the Chukchi Sea in the Alaskan Arctic, operating from the Esperanza. Here, we discovered abundant corals in the Arctic waters right where Shell was planning to drill for oil. Last year, the Arctic Sunrise facilitated research on the melting Arctic Sea ice that hit a record low in 2012.

The Arctic Sunrise is currently in the Russian Arctic to expose and protest against the reckless oil rush unfolding there. No scientific research was conducted. In any event, suspicion of unauthorised scientific research is not recognised as a valid ground to board a foreign vessel in the EEZ.

Activists are ‘guests’, not arrested

‘Greenpeace activists were rescued and are not arrested’ (RU)

Greenpeace International activists Sini & Marco were taken into custody by Coast Guard agents during the peaceful protest at the Prirazlomnaya platform. They were then held for more than 24 hours against their will on board a Coast Guard ship. Whilst on board this vessel, crew from the Arctic Sunrise had to supply Sini and Marco with food and clothing, hardly a standard procedure for people apparently staying as “guests.”

What is Russia up to?

Putin: Russia to reopen Soviet-era Arctic military base

 

 

Russian President Vladimir Putin takes part in a teleconference with Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu at the Bocharov Ruchei state residence in Sochi, September 16, 2013. REUTERS/Mikhail Klimentyev/RIA Novosti/Kremlin

 

MOSCOW | Mon Sep 16, 2013 4:07pm EDT

(Reuters) – Russia is reopening a Soviet-era military base in the Arctic, President Vladimir Putin said on Monday, part of a drive to make the northern coast a global shipping route and secure the region’s vast energy resources.

Two decades after abandoning it, Russia has sent 10 warships behind four nuclear-powered ice breakers to the base on the Novosibirsk Islands, a show of force as it resumes a permanent naval presence in the thawing region.

The flotilla was led by Russia’s flagship nuclear-powered cruiser, Peter the Great, along the Northern Sea Route, which connects Europe to Asia across Russian waters from the Kara Gate to the Bering Strait.

“Our troops left there in 1993, and yet it is a very important location in the Arctic Ocean, a new stage in the development of the Northern Sea Route,” Putin told a meeting of Russian defense officials.

“We will not only reopen the military base but restore the airfield to working order and make it possible for the emergency services, hydrologists and climate specialists to work together to ensure the security and effective work of the Northern Sea Route.”

Russia has staked future growth on mining the Arctic’s vast energy resources, and reviving the Soviet-era shipping route is an integral part of that plan.

Warmer summers have thawed more of the frozen waterways, rendering it navigable for longer periods and raising hopes the maritime passage could become a shorter alternative to southern routes.

But industry analysts and mariners say poor infrastructure, ice floes, narrow straits, shallow waters, and stormy winters remain as obstacles to safe and profitable shipping.

(Reporting by Alissa de Carbonnel; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)