Russia shuts Greenpeace out of Arctic Sea route, stifles criticism of oil industry

Last edited 21 August 2013 at 4:02pm
21 August, 2013

Wednesday August 21 (Barents Sea) - 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 onboard 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 as part of a global campaign which has attracted over 3.5 million people at www.savethearctic.org

Contact

Stefano Gelmini, Greenpeace, 07506 512 442

Sune Scheller, Greenpeace, +45 27144257

Further information

Statement from the independent Det Norske Veritas (DNV) on the classification of the Arctic Sunrise: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/briefings/climate/2013/DNV-classification-letter.pdf

Letter from Greenpeace International to head of the Northern Sea Route Administration: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/briefings/climate/2013/2013-08-19-Letter-to-Northern-Sea-Route-Administration.pdf

Notes

The first two applications were rejected on the basis that it was not clear what level of ice strengthening the vessel has, despite the presentation of a Classification Certificate from Det Norske Veritas (DNV), an internationally recognised classification society, confirming that the Arctic Sunrise is classed as an 1A1 ICEBREAKER, the second highest notation available at the time of construction and a notation superior to Arc6 in the Russian system (DNV Polar 10 notification: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/briefings/climate/2013/DNV-POLAR-10-notation.pdf and a comparison between the different standards of ice strengthening: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/Global/international/briefings/climate/2013/comparison-different-rules-ice-strengthening.pdf)

The third application was rejected on the basis of an alleged lack of information on the ice belt breadth of the vessel: http://www.nsra.ru/files/zayavka/20130816160704оÑ�каз%20аÑ�кÑ�ик.pdf. This issue was not raised at the time of refusal of the first two applications. The Arctic Sunrise is classed as an icebreaker until a hull depth of 4.70m. There is no defined ‘Ice belt breadth’ mentioned in the Class Certificate or appendix thereto, nor on the General Arrangement Plan. ‘Breadth’ is not the right dimension to ask for. What is normally of interest is the width / thickness of the plating at ice draft 4.70m. For this, the shell expansion plan should be referred to, but it is not one of the documents that is required by the application form.

Further, the relevant area is ice free at this time of year.

The decision to deny the Arctic Sunrise entry to the Kara Sea is contrary to Russia’s obligation under Article 58 of the Law of the Sea Convention to allow foreign vessels freedom of navigation in its EEZ, and its obligations under Articles 10 and 11 of the European Convention on Human Rights to refrain from unjustified interferences with freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Overview of the more than 400 permissions granted in 2013 to enter the Northern Sea Route: http://www.nsra.ru/en/razresheniya/

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