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Greenpeace agrees to halt protest

By Brian Walker, CNN
  • The group had been kept a Chevron oil ship from moving to a drilling site
  • The oil company sought a court order to force an end to the protest
  • Greenpeace wants environmental officials to back a deepwater drilling ban

(CNN) -- Greenpeace activists who prevented a Chevron oil drilling ship from moving to a drill site this week agreed Friday to end their protest after the oil company sought a court order against the demonstration.

Activists on board the Greenpeace ship Esperanza attached a bright yellow "survival pod" to the giant ship's anchor on Wednesday, effectively keeping it from going to sea.

Two members of the Greenpeace crew shimmied up the anchor's chains, spending Tuesday night hanging above the waves in a small tent. They then secured the survival pod, which has been occupied by activists since Wednesday.

The drill ship Stena Carron, operated under contract by oil giant Chevron, has been holding off the Shetland Islands in the North Sea since its movement was halted.

Ben Stewart, the leader of the Greenpeace operation, told CNN on Friday that the activists will detach the pod sometime Saturday "when the seas are calmer."

Greenpeace had said earlier this week that the pod contained enough fuel, food and supplies to sustain its occupants for up to a month.

The injunction sought by the drill ship and Chevron was granted by a Scottish court, the oil company said in a statement released Friday.

"The matter is now being handled by the police," the statement said. "While we respect the right of Greenpeace or anyone else to express their views by peaceful and lawful action, we deplore activities that could put both the crew as well as the protesters at risk."

Under the injunction, the activists were ordered to cease their demonstration or incur major daily fines.

"The interdiction was granted and in all good conscience we couldn't give hundreds of thousands of dollars straight to Chevron by defying this judgment," Stewart said, adding, "They used a legal hammer to smash a peaceful protest."

The group staged the demonstration in hopes of pressuring Chevron and European Union environmental ministers gathering this week in Norway to support a deepwater drilling moratorium in the North Sea in the wake of the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.

In a statement issued Friday, the ministers said they have "committed to take firm steps to apply relevant lessons learnt from the accident on the Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico to prevent significant acute pollution from offshore drilling activities in the North-East Atlantic."