The Greenland Government has now decided to publish the oil spill contingency plan in Greenland after having heard the wish of the public for such publication. The Greenland Government has all the time wanted openness concerning the oil exploration activities in Greenland, but ongoing risk assessments have made it necessary to withhold, in particular, the oil spill contingency plan. Now new safety options are available to the Greenland authorities after the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Denmark has completed its evaluation of the considerable and continued violations of the safety zones around the drilling rigs in Greenland.
The Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs has found in pursuance of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that it is possible for Greenland authorities to take action within a radius of 5 km from the safety zone. The applicable safety zone is 500 metres around the drilling rig.
These new options available will make it easier for the authorities to take measures in relation to unlawful actions against the safety measures of the drilling rigs. This means that the risk of accidents that may cause loss of lives and result in pollution of the environment can be reduced. Therefore Naalakkersuisut now finds it justifiable to meet the wish of the public for publication of the oil spill contingency plan as the options for countering sabotage actions have improved considerably.
Violation of drilling activities
As a result of a large number of unlawful actions aimed at the safety measures at oil exploration it has until now been necessary for the authorities to keep the contingency plans confidential. The opinion has been that it would be possible to launch even more attacks against safety if the plans were presented openly.
The first signs that actions were planned against the oil activities were in the early summer of 2010 when the police and local authorities in Aasiaat observed persons who on the face of it behaved suspiciously at containers with oil spill abatement equipment. When these persons were challenged they refused to answer and ran away.
Subsequently there have been a number of unlawful actions against the oil wells of which the following may be emphasised:
On 31 August 2010, four Greenpeace activists forced an entry onto the drilling rig Stena Don and attached themselves to the underside of the rig with the purpose of preventing the drilling of exploration wells. The four activists were subsequently arrested and charged of contravention of the Self-Government's Executive Order No. 14 of 26 August 2010 and section 96 (1)(i) of the Criminal Code. The activists were subsequently expelled from Greenland.
On 22 April 2011, eleven Greenpeace activists forced an entry onto the drilling rig Leiv Eiriksson in Turkish waters while it was on its way to Greenland. Greenpeace openly proclaimed that the purpose of the action was to stop the oil exploration in Greenland.
On 26 May 2011, Greenpeace harassed the vessels Esperanza and Arctic Sunrise and the drilling rig Leiv Eiriksson by attempting to throw booms in front of the drilling rig while it was sailing. Greenpeace hence actively attempted to prevent another vessel from sailing freely, which is contrary to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. A complaint has been filed with the Danish Maritime Authority concerning the harassment by Greenpeace of vessels in Greenland waters. The Danish authorities have passed on the complaint to the Dutch naval authorities.
On 29 May 2011, Greenpeace activists forced an entry onto the drilling rig Leiv Eiriksson by hoisting a survival pod onto the side of the drilling rig and placing two activists in it. On 2 June 2011 the two activists were arrested and charged of contravention of the Self-Government's Executive Order No. 14 of 26 August 2010 and section 96 (1)(i) of the Criminal Code. The activists were subsequently expelled from Greenland.
On 4 June 2011, a large number of Greenpeace activists broke through the safety zone around the drilling rig Leiv Eiriksson. 18 activists forced an entry onto the drilling rig where several of them locked themselves into the crane cabins with the purpose of stopping the exploration activities. The 18 activists were all arrested the same day and charged with contravention of the Self-Government's Executive Order No. 14 of 26 August 2010 and section 96 (1)(i) of the Criminal Code. The activists were subsequently expelled from Greenland.
This action involved direct sabotage against the oil spill emergency preparedness as the occupation of the two cranes on the rig meant that it would not have been possible to lift abatement equipment in place if an oil spill had occurred at the time of the action.
As a consequence of the improved safety measures that the Greenland authorities, the oil spill contingency plan has now been published.
Oil Spill Prevention and Contingency Plan
Exploration Drilling Programme 2011 - Greenland
South Greenland 57°-62°N
West Greenland 62°-68°N
West Greenland 68°-72°N
Northwest Greenland 72°-75°N
Government of Greenland, 3900 Nuuk, Phone: (00299) 34 50 00