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article imageArctic 30 welcome Greenpeace protest ship back to Amsterdam

By Robert Myles     Aug 10, 2014 in World
Amsterdam - Greenpeace's protest vessel, the ice-breaker Arctic Sunrise, docked in Amsterdam, Holland, Saturday, almost a year after Russian authorities seized the ship and arrested its crew during Greenpeace protests against Arctic oil drilling.
Following Russia authorizing release of the vessel last June, Arctic Sunrise left the Russian Arctic port of Murmansk on the Barents Sea coast, Aug. 1, heading to Amsterdam.
It took some weeks for Greenpeace to make the ship seaworthy. A representative of the environmental campaigning group told Deutsche Welle that much of the equipment on board Arctic Sunrise, including navigation and communication aids had "disappeared or had been severely damaged."
Arctic Sunrise was in Russian custody for 300 days, having been boarded and seized by Russian security agents on September 19th 2013. 30 Greenpeace activists, dubbed the Arctic 30, on board the ship arrested at the same time after two of them attempted to scale a Russian offshore oil platform.
At the time of the seizure and arrests, Greenpeace was engaged in what it termed was “peaceful direct action” against Russia’s state owned oil and gas company, Gazprom, as the company embarked on drilling the world’s first oil well in Arctic waters.
As Arctic Sunrise berthed at Beverwijk, near Amsterdam, Saturday, a number of the Arctic 30 were on hand to welcome her back and went on board. In a statement released on the Greenpeace website, Dutch climate and energy campaigner Faiza Oulahsen, who was held in custody for two months in a Russian prison last year facing charges, later dropped, of piracy and hooliganism, said, “This is a joyous day for me, for my friends and for the millions of people around the world who campaigned for the release of the Arctic 30 and the Arctic Sunrise.”
“The companies and governments who seek to exploit this vulnerable region for profit have tried to silence the growing call to protect the Arctic for future generations. But they have not succeeded. And they will not. The Arctic Sunrise will sail again. By now more than 5 million people worldwide have spoken out for Arctic protection,” added Oulahsen.
Arctic Sunrise is unlikely to be absent from Arctic waters for long as drilling for oil and gas in the region gathers pace. Coinciding with Arctic Sunrise’s return to a safe haven this weekend, another Russian oil giant, Rosneft, embarked on a joint drilling project with ExxonMobil in the Kara Sea, a vast expanse of Arctic waters east of the island of island of Novaya Zemlya.
As Karen Graham reported on Digital Journal today, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin launched Rosneft and ExxonMobil’s start of drilling in the Arctic during a teleconference with the two companies’ CEOs, Saturday.
Initially, Greenpeace will move Arctic Sunrise to a shipyard in Amsterdam to undergo repairs. Greenpeace expects to have a comprehensive assessment of necessary repairs within a fortnight. The environmental group haven't released details of the ship’s likely movements once repairs are complete, but veteran Greenpeace captain Pete Willcox, who was in command of Greenpeace's "Rainbow Warrior" when it was sunk by French agents in 1985, said he expected the ship to be "back out campaigning in about a month, maybe six weeks."
A return to Arctic waters for Arctic Sunrise, and possible further clashes with the Russian authorities, certainly cannot be ruled out.
Russian authorities freed Arctic Sunrise after the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, Nov. 22, 2013, ordered Russia to 'immediately' release the vessel upon the posting of a €3.6 million bond by the Netherlands. The bond was posted by Dec. 2, 2013.
In March 2014, the Arctic 30 commenced legal proceedings against Russia at the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). The Greenpeace activists previously held in Russia are seeking "just compensation" from the Russian Federation and a statement from ECHR that the 30’s arrest in international waters by Russian agents and their subsequent detention were unlawful.
Greenpeace opposes moves to extend offshore gas and oil exploitation into the Arctic, arguing that drilling operations are a threat to one of the world’s few remaining untouched wildernesses with its unique ecology. Greenpeace set out its case against energy companies encroaching into the Arctic in the campaign group’s policy document “Arctic Sanctuary” published June 2014.
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