Greenpeace cuts off seismic vessel offshore New Zealand

Image: Kate Simcock

Greenpeace crew have made contact with the world’s biggest seismic vessel after traveling 50 nautical miles on two rigid-hulled inflatables off the coast of Wairarapa, New Zealand. 

The boat crews, consisting of members from Greenpeace and local iwi, located the 125-meter seismic ship, Amazon Warrior, searching for oil off the East Coast of New Zealand on behalf of oil giants Statoil and Chevron, Greenpeace informed on Friday.

From on board one of the inflatables, Greenpeace campaigner Kate Simcock radioed the master of the Amazon Warrior to deliver an open letter of protest signed by over 60,000 New Zealanders.

Polynesian voyaging waka captain and East Coast resident, Reuben Raihania Tipoki (Ngāti Kahungunu), also delivered a message on behalf of over 80 indigenous communities from the East Coast of New Zealand, demanding Statoil and Chevron cease activities in their customary waters.

Tipoki says it’s important to see first-hand what seismic blasting ships are doing in his iwi’s customary waters so he can bring the stories back to his community.

“The burning of fossil fuels is changing our world – we are changing our world. We are calling in Armageddon, and it will be destruction by our own hands,” he says.

“If we are to stem climate change, indigenous philosophies about how to fit in with nature and not expect nature to fit in with us must be re-adopted.”

The Amazon Warrior currently has two support vessels circling it. They are the Ocean Pioneer, a New Zealand-owned fishing vessel often used as support by the oil industry; and the Maria G, a supply ship sent over from Panama.

From on board, Greenpeace climate campaigner, Kate Simcock, says the sheer size of the Amazon Warrior is “daunting”.

“This is one big beast and it’s eerie to see it out here roaming such a beautiful stretch of coastline. In order to find oil, it’s blasting sound waves into the ocean every 8 seconds, 24 hours a day, from massive arrays that are the length of 80 rugby fields,” she says.

“The oil industry itself admits they are comparable in sound to an underwater volcano, so just imagine how distressing they must be for the dolphins and whales who live here,” Greenpeace said.

“And this is all for the very oil that science says can’t be burned if we are to avoid a climate catastrophe. It’s a complete betrayal that our Government has invited this climate-wrecking machine to roam our unique coastlines.”

Marine seismic surveying is a common practice in offshore oil and gas exploration. Seismic ships are used to identify the potential drilling prospects, and help the oil companies reduce the number of dry holes while drilling for oil.

As for the impact on marine life, according to the International Association of Geophysical Contractors, the sound produced during seismic surveys is comparable in magnitude to many naturally occurring and other man-made ocean sound sources, including wind and wave action, rain, lightning strikes, marine life, and shipping.

Also, according to PEPANZ, a New Zealand association promoting oil and gas industry, seismic surveying and “countless research projects have shown no evidence to suggest that sound from oil and gas exploration activities in normal operating circumstances has harmed marine species or marine ecological communities.”

Technological developments have provided much better detection of marine mammals that are not visible on the surface during seismic surveys, allowing explorers to conduct environmentally responsible marine seismic operations, PEPANZ says on its website.

Offshore Energy Today Staff