Activists from the campaign group Greenpeace have boarded a ship in the Atlantic Ocean and scaled a Shell oil platform that is currently being transported to the North Sea.
“Stop drilling. Start paying,” the activists’ banners say.
The protest comes as the oil giant on Thursday announced record annual profits of almost $40 billion for 2022, more than doubling what it posted in 2021. The company has benefited from very high oil and gas prices following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Greenpeace called the action “a peaceful protest against the climate devastation around the world caused by Shell and the wider fossil fuel industry.”
Protesters from the UK, US, Argentina and Turkey left the Canary Islands on a ship in the early hours of Tuesday morning, before transferring to three small boats. They used climbing equipment to board the ship and scale the nearly 400-foot (118-meter) platform.
Shell is moving the platform to the Penguins oil and gas field, northeast of the Shetland Islands in Scotland to help unlock new wells. The field is expected to produce 45,000 barrels of oil or gas equivalent a day.
The protesters estimate the ship will take about 10 days to reach the Shetland Islands and plan to remain on the platform for the entire journey.
“Fossil fuel companies like Shell, that are responsible for this climate chaos we’re seeing around the globe, need to be held responsible,” Usnea Granger, one of the activists on the platform, told CNN.
She added: “Countries that did the least to cause this climate chaos that we’re in are impacted the most, and Shell is making billions and billions and billions of dollars of profit.”
Granger, who is from the US, said experiences of climate-fuelled extreme weather on the West Coast where she lived, including drought and wildfires, pushed her into climate activism.
“These actions are causing real safety concerns, with a number of people boarding a moving vessel in rough conditions,” a Shell spokesperson said in a statement by email. “We respect the right of everyone to express their point of view. It’s essential they do that with their safety and that of others in mind.”
People and businesses still need “a stable supply of oil and gas” as renewable power is built up, the spokesperson added.
The company said oil and gas output from the North Sea “is tailing off” but that it “is important to stop it tailing off too steeply, while the transition to low-carbon energy gathers pace.”
Yeb Saño, executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, said in a press statement that Shell “must take accountability for decades of profiting from climate injustice, and pay for the loss and damage they’ve caused.”
Loss and damage refers to the concept that those who have contributed most to climate change should pay to help those who are experiencing the worst effects.
Greenpeace activists in London also targeted Shell’s headquarters on Thursday, setting up a mock gas station price board displaying Shell’s profits with a question mark next to the amount it will pay towards climate loss and damage.