Greenpeace in oil ship protest

Environmental activists have swum in front of an oil drill ship in a fresh attempt to halt its operations.

Greenpeace said campaigners wearing drysuits dived into the North Sea one day after legal threats put an end to earlier action at the Stenna Carron.

The group of four left Greenpeace’s Esperanza ship at 1.30pm on Sunday by inflatable speedboat and got into the water about 100 miles north of Shetland, “halting” their target’s journey.

The protest organisation released a statement from one of the swimmers, Ben Stewart, who said: “That oil drill ship is the size of a sky-scraper on its side and as it cut through the water towards us I felt really scared, it’s like nothing I’ve ever done, but we are determined to stop it reaching its deepwater drilling site.

“It stopped for a few minutes but then changed course and now it’s heading for the oil field. We need to go beyond oil, we need our politicians to stop ships like this from threatening our pristine coastlines and the global climate.

“It shouldn’t be down to people bobbing in the water in front of ships to stop the insane rush for the last drops of oil in ever more dangerous and difficult to reach places.”

The group threatened to send “waves of swimmers” and campaigners in kayaks in front of the ship until Monday to force it back. Greenpeace activists had spent four days in a “survival pod” dangling off the vessel’s anchor to stop it drilling a well.

They used boats to reach the 748ft drill ship and then climbed up the giant links of a chain on Monday. Greenpeace claims that the ship was about to sail for a site in the Lagavulin oil field before drilling an exploratory well in 1,640ft of water.

The ship’s operator, US energy giant Chevron, was granted an injunction at the Court of Session in Edinburgh on Friday night ordering the campaigners to move on safety grounds. Activists were told they must either come down or face fines or custodial sentences, eventually leaving at about 5pm on Saturday.

Chevron argued that it needs to be able to move the ship away from the coast in rough seas for safety reasons.

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