Russian Guards Board Greenpeace Icebreaker
The ARCTIC SUNRISE, GREEN PEACE PHOTO
The Associated Press reported today that Russian Coast Guardsmen boarded the Green Peace ship ARCTIC SUNRISE on Sunday. We have to admit to being pleasantly surprised that reportedly the Coast Guardsmen were unarmed and the boarding team did not meet with any resistance. We did not expect that first contact between the Green Peace organization and Russian authorities would be quite as civil as it apparently was. However we have to admit that we have some familiarity with the Russian Coast Guard. Border police organizations since they operate in such close proximity with our own Coast Guard in the area of North Western Alaska. Our overall impression of these organizations is one of professionalism. Reportedly despite Green Peace's entry into the area in defiance of Russian edits to the contrary and denial of a transit permit, apparently the only action taken by the Coast Guard boarding officers was a request that the vessel leave the area. Interestingly the ship is under the Dutch flag and the Netherlands, perhaps the only seafaring state left with no charges to level at Green Peace, protested formally the exclusion from the area. Reportedly the Green Peace protest was limited to launching inflatable boats with protest signs towards the oil and mineral industry ships. The Russian Coast Guard then formally established a 4 mile marine safety and security zone around the oil and mineral industry vessels, a type of measure well recognized under international law. So far the ARCTIC SUNRISE has not violated the zone, though it denies the Green Peace vessel a clear view of the oil industry vessels.
Let us hope that Green Peace doesn't decide to go play bumper boats with the Russian security craft as they have so often have with others. We are frankly quite pleasantly surprised with the mild Russian reaction to this flagrant violation of Russian and international law.
We were also surprised that GREEN PEACE was able to get a legitimate flag state to register under like the Netherlands. Until today's report we thought that the ARCTIC SUNRISE would have been under a flag of convenience such as Liberia or Panama, or more likely Cypress. Liberia and Panama are usually pretty quick to fully cooperate with the shipping authorities of nations with complaints about ships in their registry. We seriously doubt that Liberia or Panama or any other flag of convenience state would have protested on GREEN PEACE's behalf as the Netherlands did. This Green Peace operation shows evidence of more forethought than the usual GREEN PEACE operations we've seen in the past, and some diplomatic leg work done in advance. The Russian reaction indicates real maritime, coast guard professionalism and serious restraint. The ball is really in Green Peace's court now. They have made their presence felt illegally and gotten away with it, they have brought their view of Arctic drilling to the world ( frankly a reticence we share) and they have shown the oil companies that the world is watching. Frankly GREEN PEACE, now would be a really good time to leave.