Scottish court asked to jail Greenpeace chiefs over North Sea protest

Severin Carrell Scotland editor

A Scottish court has been asked to jail or heavily fine Greenpeace directors who authorised direct action against a North Sea oil rig in protest over climate heating.

The US oil firm Transocean has begun legal action for contempt of court against Greenpeace after its activists occupied one of its oil rigs in the Cromarty Firth in northern Scotland and chased it out to sea earlier this year.

Greenpeace had defied a court order banning it from occupying the rig in early June, which was being operated by Transocean on behalf of BP and had nearly 100 workers onboard.

Fourteen people were arrested during the protest, including activists occupying the rig, Greenpeace support staff on shore and photographers working for group.

The Transocean court challenge is the second time this month Greenpeace has been taken to court in Scotland for organising climate protests against North Sea oil rigs, in a significant escalation of its conflict with the oil industry.

Shell won an interim interdict last week banning Greenpeace from going within 500 metres of its four oil rigs in the Brent field 85 miles north-east of Shetland, after Greenpeace occupied two rigs being decommissioned there in October.

Greenpeace is defending the action by Transocean and is likely to use the case, expected to be heard in full early next year, as a platform to air its complaints against the oil industry over its role in causing climate warming.

It was a Transocean rig operated by BP involved in the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. Transocean lodged its papers with the court in Edinburgh around the time of the Shell hearing last week, and has been approached for comment.

Transocean operates the rig, named after Paul B Loyd Jr, a founder of one of Transocean’s predecessor companies, and claimed the Greenpeace occupation was costing it £140,000 a day.

Greenpeace activists occupied and obstructed the Paul B Loyd Jr for 12 days, preventing it from being taken back out to BP’s Vorlich field in the North Sea. The Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise then followed the rig out to sea, forcing Transocean into evasive action for several days.

In last week’s court hearing, Lady Carmichael banned Greenpeace from going with 500 metres of four Shell rigs, upholding the firm’s claims that the protesters were breaching its property rights and putting its own activists’ safety at risk.

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