Police in the United Kingdom arrested 15 Greenpeace activists on Monday after they blocked a Russian tanker from docking in Essex. The campaigners said the tanker contained diesel fuel worth US$36.5 million that would fund Russia’s war in Ukraine.
“The UK’s attachment to fossil fuels has backfired in the worst way possible—we’re funding a war, our energy bills and fuel costs are sky-high, and we’re driving the climate crisis. It has to stop,” said Georgia Whitaker, oil and gas campaigner at Greenpeace UK.
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Greenpeace volunteers using their Russian Tanker Tracker gained access to the Navigator Terminals jetty on the River Thames via boat late on Sunday night. They climbed into the Andromeda oil tanker’s intended berth to prevent it from docking and unloading its cargo.
“Images from a vessel tracking website show the tanker being turned around in the Thames shortly after the activists were in position,” Greenpeace said on their website.
Despite early morning arrests, Greenpeace said some activists remained in place and unfurled a banner reading “OIL FUELS WAR.”
The diesel originated from the Russian port of Primorsk, was bought by energy and commodities trader Vitol, and supplied by the LLC KINEF refinery, reports industry newsletter Rigzone.
The Andromeda is not the first tanker to meet resistance in the UK; previously, a tanker with Russian oil had been diverted after dock workers in Kent refused to offload the fuels. And Greenpeace activists similarly succeeded in diverting the Ust Luga tanker in Norway in late April, writes Greenpeace.
“To stand up to Putin, bring bills down, and tackle climate change, the Prime Minister must get us off fossil fuels as fast as possible, stop ludicrous energy waste from our substandard draughty homes, and prioritize cheap, clean, homegrown renewable power,” said Whitaker.
According to Greenpeace research published at the end of April, the UK has imported nearly two million barrels of Russian oil worth an estimated £220 million (US$275 million) since the start of the war. Russian oil continues to arrive in the UK despite a ban on imports from Russian-flagged vessels, by entering UK ports on ships registered to other countries. The Andromeda, for instance, bears a Greek flag, Greenpeace says.
Western partners to Russian oil companies use an array of schemes to protect their reputation while continuing to do business with an country that is rapidly becoming an international pariah. In some cases, ships with Russian oil travel beyond the nationally exclusive 200-mile economic zone off Russia’s coast to transfer their cargo to larger tankers on the high seas, at which point it can be mixed and classified as another nation’s product. When leaving port, the Russian ships can designate their cargo as “destination unknown.” Such vessels left Russian ports with more than 11.1 million barrels of Russian oil throughout April, reports Forbes.ru.
“Europeans cannot waive sanctions politically,” said an oil trader who spoke with Forbes.ru. “But you have to live. Therefore, [the Europeans] are quite flexible in their attitude to the schemes that we come up with.”