26 Feb 2012

Drill ship protestor arrested

2:43 pm on 26 February 2012

A Greenpeace activist who voluntarily quit a Taranaki shipboard protest over oil drilling has been arrested.

The 25-year-old from Auckland has been bailed to appear at New Plymouth District Court on Thursday charged with unlawfully boarding a ship.

Five Greenpeace members and actress Lucy Lawless remain in occupation of an oil rig in Port Taranaki in protest at plans to send it to the Arctic for ocean drilling.

They spent Saturday night 53 metres up the tower of the rig Noble Discoverer.

This vessel has ended drilling off Taranaki and is supposed to be in Alaska's Chukchi Sea by July.

One of the protesters has left the rig of his own volition and has been taken into custody.

It is not know what charges will be laid.

Shell says it is good that he has come down, and looks forward to other protesters doing the same thing.

The company adds it is disappointed that Greenpeace has not chosen to meet for discussions despite its invitation to do so.

Seven protesters spent Friday night on the derrick of the drilling ship which they boarded at 7am in New Plymouth.

They occupied the Noble Discoverer to try to disrupt plans by Shell to charter the vessel to search for oil in the Arctic.

Greenpeace says they intend to stay on board as long as they can. They have food, sleeping bags and are prepared for wet weather.

The derrick is 53 metres high and they are secured to it with climbing ropes.

Lucy Lawless said on Saturday it was cold and windy overnight, and she had little sleep.

Police have said they will not force the protesters to leave because they are in an isolated part of the ship, and the port and the ship are able to operate as normal.

Greenpeace says it has had a phenomenal response, with 70,000 emails going through its website to Shell Oil's chief executive.

Shell Oil would not say whether the protest has prevented the ship from leaving port this weekend.

The company says it intends to search for oil off the coast of Alaska in an environmentally responsible manner.