Chevron is facing a major battle to remove Greenpeace protesters from its drill ship off Shetland after the campaigners set up a “survival pod” which could allow them to live on the vessel.
Environmentalists used boats to reach the 700ft Stena Carron, a mile east of Lerwick, and then climbed up its anchor chain on Tuesday.
The two men who launched the action have been replaced by three people inside the purpose-built pod, which has been attached to the chain.
Last night the man who ended the famous Greenpeace occupation of the Brent Spar in 1995 said removing the protesters will now be “fraught with difficulties”.
Chevron says it is talking to the group, but Northern Constabulary has said that it will not remove the pod – which was transported from Aberdeen on the Esperanza vessel yesterday.
Campaigners launched small boats from the Esperanza before towing the half-tonne survival pod to the ship, where it was attached to the anchor chain and lifted into place.
Leila Deen – who once threw green custard at Labour politician Peter Mandelson – is in the pod, with two unnamed climbers, one from Finland and one from Italy.
The Press and Journal understands that the environmental group has enough supplies on the Esperanza to keep the protest up until December if need be.
Former Lothian and Borders Police chief constable George Esson, who led the Shell operation to remove Greenpeace from the disused Brent Spar, said there were no easy options available to Chevron.
The company has the right to remove people from its property using a level of force deemed reasonable – but the location of the protesters makes this too dangerous.
“Occupations like this are difficult enough to deal with in a building on land, but the sea makes it even more difficult to deal with,” Mr Esson said.
“Police have to decide what jurisdiction the situation falls under. If there is no criminal behaviour then it is a civil matter.
“They can go to court to get an interdict to remove the people from their property – but they need to know the names of the people involved.
“Even if they get an interdict, how do they enforce it? I am not saying that it can’t be done, but it won’t be easy.
“Critics looking on from the sidelines have to understand how difficult this is. There is no simple remedy – if there was, it would have been used.”
The latest protest by Greenpeace against deep water drilling comes as ministers from countries bordering the North East Atlantic meet in Norway to discuss a proposal to ban new deep sea oil and gas wells.
Since the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, environmental campaigners have joined forces with politicians across the world to demand a ban on new deep water drilling – but the UK Government has resisted calls to do so here.
The Stena Carron, owned by Aberdeen’s Stena Drilling but operated by Chevron, was due to sail for a site in the Lagavulin oil field before drilling an exploratory well in 1,600ft of water.