LONDON — Campaigners from the environmental group Greenpeace tried unsuccessfully to prevent a Russian tanker from docking in the Netherlands. They claim the vessel is carrying the world's first shipment of oil drilled from Arctic waters.
The protest comes as many lawmakers in Europe look to diversify the continent's energy supplies away from Russia amid tensions with Moscow over Ukraine.
Greenpeace says the oil aboard the Mikhail Ulyanovis is from the Prirazlomnaya platform, owned by Russian state-run oil company Gazprom. Around 80 activists from the environmental group tried to prevent the tanker from docking Thursday morning.
"The only reason that the oil companies can drill for oil in the Arctic is because the ice is melting and they want to drill for more oil that's causing the melting in the first place,” said Ian Duff, head of the Arctic Campaign at Greenpeace UK. “We think this is ludicrous."
Dutch police eventually boarded the Greenpeace vessels and the tanker was able to dock.
Last September, thirty Greenpeace activists and journalists were imprisoned for two months in Russia after staging a protest at the platform.
"This tanker is carrying the first load of Arctic offshore oil drilled out by Gazprom, so it's controversial for dozens of reasons,” said Dutch activist Faiza Oulahsen, who was among those detained in Russia. “We're asking the Dutch government to take a stand and stop this tanker."
The oil shipment comes as Europe debates weaning itself off Russian energy supplies following the crisis in Ukraine.
"At least half of the (Russian) national state budget comes from sales of hydrocarbons to Europe,” said Ian Bond, director of foreign policy at the Center for European Reform. “Although in the winter it would be true that Europe would freeze before Gazprom went bankrupt, in the summer Europe has more levers."
Greenpeace says there appears to be much talk but little action.
"We're not seeing any sort of distance being put between the big Western energy companies and Russia,” said Duff. “In fact, the oil today is being received by Total, a company which in the past has committed not to drill in the Arctic because they think it's just too dangerous."
Both Total and Gazprom failed to respond to requests for comment on the Greenpeace protest.