Alaska Beat

SWAT team stops Greenpeace protest on icebreaker headed to Alaska

A Swedish SWAT team arrested Greenpeace activists who boarded the Nordica icebreaker and slowed its progress toward Alaska, according to a release from the group.

Shell Oil has contracted the 381-foot ship as it prepares to drill for oil, possibly this summer, in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

Six Greenpeace activists boarded the ship in the Baltic Sea using high-speed inflatable boats in what Greenpeace called a peaceful protest against drilling they believe could harm the fragile Arctic. They locked themselves to the ship with banners that said "You Can #SaveTheArctic," according to the release.

The phrase on the banner is jargon recognized by those who use Twitter.

"Swedish authorities were called to the scene as the vessel altered its course, sailing in circles for a number of hours, before being escorted into the nearby port of Karlskrona by the Coast Guard and Navy," the Greenpeace statement said. "Once there the activists were removed by a SWAT team and are now being held by police."

It was Greenpeace's second "interception" of the ship, the release said. Earlier this week, 20 activists boarded the Nordica in Helsinki, Finland, as it prepared to depart for Alaska. While they were arrested, several others blocked the ship's path in small boats and canoes.

"The Nordica is sailing to Alaska to support the Kulluk and Noble Discoverer, two dilapidated drilling vessels hired by Shell to sink five exploratory wells off the northern coast of Alaska in July," the Greenpeace statement said. "Shell is the first major international oil company to make such drilling a serious corporate focus and has already spent billions of dollars on the project. If it strikes oil this summer, other oil giants will quickly follow, sparking a potentially catastrophic oil rush in the Frozen North."

Greenpeace also targeted the Noble Discover drill rig as it left Auckland, New Zealand, on its way to Alaska, boarding the ship with Lucy Lawless, the actress who played Xena the Warrior Princess.

Alex DeMarban

Alex DeMarban is a longtime Alaska journalist who covers business, the oil and gas industries and general assignments. Reach him at 907-257-4317 or