Dutch arrest 30 Greenpeace activists blocking Russian tanker

THE HAGUE - Dutch police on Thursday arrested around 30 Greenpeace activists, including the captain of the lobby group's flagship Rainbow Warrior, as they tried to stop a Russian tanker delivering Arctic oil from docking.

"The captain has been arrested and the ship is being taken elsewhere else," Rotterdam police spokesman Roland Eckers told AFP of the Rainbow Warrior.

"Several activists climbed a fence to prevent the ship docking and several others were in small boats also trying to impede the tanker and several were arrested, around 30 activists," Eckers said.

The Rainbow Warrior was captained by Peter Willcox, who was among campaigners detained by Russian authorities last year after staging a high-profile protest against drilling in the environmentally fragile Arctic.

No one else aboard the Rainbow Warrior was arrested, while the Mikhail Ulyanov tanker, bringing a first delivery of offshore Arctic oil to Rotterdam, was now safely moored, police said.

Activist Willem Wiskerke tweeted from aboard the vessel that he was in the ship's mess with police.

Activists attached to pipe

Police spokesman Eckers said the protest was over after police removed "a couple of people who had fastened themselves to a sort of oil pipe" on the quay.

"We detached them, it went peacefully, they're on shore," Eckers said.

Greenpeace activists had earlier painted "No Arctic Oil" in large letters on the tanker's hull, while others in inflatable boats tried to prevent the ship docking.

The oil on board the Russian tanker is the first to be delivered from the Prirazlomnaya platform, an offshore rig owned by Russian energy giant Gazprom and the site of Greenpeace's protest last September.

Greenpeace has accused France's Total of hypocrisy for buying the Arctic oil, after the energy giant's CEO Christophe de Margerie said in 2012 that his company would not drill in the region.

Despite criticism, Total on Thursday left the door opened to further purchases of Arctic oil.

"This is a spot purchase not a long-term contract," a Total spokesman told AFP in Paris.

"There are currently no other crude orders in the Arctic. Total has bought Russian oil for years and will continue to do so according to market needs and opportunities."

No Arctic oil ban

Dutch Minister of Economic Affairs Henk Kamp on Thursday rejected a coalition MP's request for the Netherlands to ban offshore Arctic oil.

Such a move would frustrate international efforts to coordinate protection of the Arctic, Kamp wrote in a letter to parliament, which is in recess.

The Rainbow Warrior set off on Monday to confront the tanker, but the Russian vessel switched off its satellite tracking equipment.

Last year's protest, which saw two campaigners attempt to scale the rig, prompted Russian authorities to seize Greenpeace's Dutch-flagged Arctic Sunrise boat and detain the 30 activists and journalists on board.

Pristine Arctic ecology

Greenpeace argues that the Gazprom rig is an environmental catastrophe waiting to happen that risks ruining the pristine Arctic ecology of the southern Barents Sea where the deposit is located.

The 26 foreign and four Russian activists had faced lengthy prison terms before Moscow announced amnesties after almost three months.

The crew spent several weeks detained in local jails before being transferred to Saint Petersburg and released on bail. Originally facing a charge of piracy, they were later targeted with the less severe hooliganism accusation.

An international maritime court in Germany in November told Russia to release the activists and the ship in response to a formal complaint lodged by the Netherlands, under whose flag the ship sailed.

Russia boycotted the German court hearings and ignored the ruling.

Greenpeace is suing Russia before the European Court of Human Rights for what it says was the illegal detention of its activists as it breached the right to freedom of expression.

Russian authorities are still holding the Arctic Sunrise icebreaker.