Police break Greenpeace blockade on Russian tanker

May 1, 2014 - 9:05 AM
Netherlands Greenpeace

This image made available by environmental organization Greenpeace shows Greenpeace activists aboard inflatable boats paint 'No Arctic Oil' on the side of the Mikhail Ulyanov oil tanker in Rotterdam, Netherlands, on Thursday, May 1, 2014. Greenpeace International activists are attempting to prevent a Russian tanker carrying the first oil from a new offshore platform in the Arctic from mooring at Rotterdam Port. The environmental group said Thursday it has sent two ships, Rainbow Warrior III and Esperanza, plus rubber rafts, paragliders and activists on shore, to meet the Mikhail Ulyanov, a tanker chartered by Russia's state-controlled oil company, Gazprom OAO. (AP Photo/Marten van Dijl, Greenpeace) NO SALES, NO ARCHIVE

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Dutch police stormed a Greenpeace ship Thursday and ended environmentalists' attempts to block a Russian tanker carrying oil from the Arctic Ocean from mooring at Rotterdam Port. In all, 31 activists were detained.

Before the Mikhail Ulyanov was able to dock safely, activists painted t "No Arctic Oil" in white letters on its hull, and Greenpeace flagship Rainbow Warrior blocked its passage, flying the same slogan on a banner draped between its masts.

The environmental group sent two ships, plus a fleet of rubber rafts, paragliders and activists on shore, to meet the Ulyanov. The ship was carrying the first oil produced by Gazprom OAO's Prirazlomnaya platform in the icy waters of the Arctic.

"The fight to stop Arctic oil drilling is one of the defining battles of our time," said Greenpeace International Executive Director Kumi Naidoo "We will not be intimidated, and we will win."

Greenpeace opposes oil production inside the Arctic Circle, warning of the danger of a spill in a pristine and difficult-to-reach area — as well as the threat of worsening global warming caused by using fossil fuels.

Rotterdam police spokesman Roland Ekkers said police boarded the Rainbow Warrior after captain Peter Willcox ignored orders to move his ship. Willcox was arrested and the vessel was towed away. Another 30 activists were detained for trespassing or blocking the Ulyanov's mooring place on rubber rafts.

Willcox was among 28 activists and two journalists arrested by Russian authorities last year and charged with piracy after a protest near the platform. They spent months in prison before being released shortly before the Winter Olympics in Sochi earlier this year.

Stanislav Chichin, the captain of the Ulyanov, said the Greenpeace action violated "fundamental principles of international conventions for safety at sea as well as environmental safety."

"Maneuvering in the confined waters of a port is no less dangerous than sailing in the Arctic, especially when another vessel is trying to interfere with a tanker transporting 67,000 tonnes of crude oil in an area of high-intensity shipping," he said.