Barents Sea, August 21, 2013 – The Russian government has denied permission for the Greenpeace icebreaker Arctic Sunrise to enter the increasingly busy Northern Sea Route (NSR), despite the ship having fulfilled all the requirements for such an entry.
Greenpeace International claims the decision is an attempt to prevent it from exposing the activities of Russian state-owned oil company Rosneft. Multiple vessels contracted by Rosneft and US partner ExxonMobil are conducting seismic testing and geological work in the Kara Sea in preparation for offshore Arctic drilling.
“This is a thinly veiled attempt to stifle peaceful protest and keep international attention away from Arctic oil exploration in Russia. The Arctic Sunrise is a fully equipped icebreaker with significant experience of operating in these conditions, while the oil companies operating here are taking unprecedented risks in an area teeming with polar bears, whales, and other Arctic wildlife,” says Christy Ferguson, Greenpeace Arctic Campaigner aboard the Arctic Sunrise.
“The decision to deny us entry to the Kara Sea is completely unjustified and raises serious questions about the level of collusion between the Russian authorities and the oil companies themselves. Over three million people are behind our campaign, and they want to know what Russia and its Western oil partners are trying to hide here in the Arctic.”
Greenpeace International entered three detailed applications for entry to the Northern Sea Route Administration, clearly stating its intentions to engage in peaceful and lawful protest. All applications were rejected. (1) The latest application was refused on the grounds that the information provided on the ice strengthening was apparently insufficient. From the pattern of refusals it is clear that the NSR administration has never been interested in granting Greenpeace access. The refusal is in violation of international law including the right to freedom of navigation (2).
None of the six oil exploration vessels operating for Rosneft and ExxonMobil in the area has an ice classification as high as the Arctic Sunrise. More than 400 vessels have been granted access to the Northern Sea Route this year, many of them with an inferior classification to that of the Arctic Sunrise, which is classed as an icebreaker (3).
Greenpeace International has written to the head of the Northern Sea Route Administration with an urgent request to reverse the unjustified decision. As the Arctic Sunrise is a Dutch flagged-vessel, a copy of the letter has also been sent to the Dutch Infrastructure and Foreign Ministries.
The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise is on a month-long expedition in the Arctic to expose and protest oil exploration.