LONG BEACH — Greenpeace activists unsuccessfully tried to board a tanker filled with a million barrels of crude oil Wednesday, then followed the 900-foot vessel as it made its way toward anchor.
Five activists left Greenpeace’s ship, the Arctic Sunrise, on five small vessels to meet up with the Pecos, a tanker British Petroleum Amoco had contracted to deliver Argentine oil to its terminal in Long Beach.
Three of the activists attempted to board the Pecos, but the deck was too high above the waterline, said Melanie Duchin, a Greenpeace climate campaigner aboard the Arctic Sunrise.
“It was an unsuccessful boarding, but that doesn’t mean it was an unsuccessful protest,” she said. “It’s a small detail as far as we’re concerned.”
The five Greenpeace vessels and the U.S. Coast Guard escorted the Pecos to its anchor point roughly six miles away, off the breakwater, to the Port of Long Beach.
The Coast Guard was trying to keep the activists at least 100 yards from the tanker, said Lt. Carlos Mercado, public affairs officer of the Coast Guard’s Marine Safety Office/Group in Los Angeles/Long Beach.
The activists broke the law by interfering with a ship’s passage, he said.
“We just want to ensure safety, not only of the vessel but also of the Greenpeace members,” he said, adding that the Coast Guard was trying to ensure the confrontation didn’t end with an oil spill.
Duchin said Greenpeace attempted to board the tanker to draw attention to the role of fossil fuels in global climate change, and the role of climate change in weather disasters from storms to floods to tornadoes.
“Big Oil has to start investing meaningful amounts of money, starting the transition away from oil”, Duchin said. “The tanker is symbolic of the stranglehold Big Oil has on U.S. policy.”
She said Greenpeace believes BP has failed to back up its environmentally friendly talk with action.
“BP has touted itself as ’Beyond Petroleum,”’ Duchin said, “but over the next three years it plans to spend 50 times more on oil and gas than it’s spending on solar.” The $83 million the corporation spent on alternative fuels last year is less than what it plans to spend creating and marketing its new sunburst logo, she said.
Walter Neil, external affairs manager for BP’s Carson refinery, said Greenpeace “should be applauding us and not protesting us, I think.”
Neil said BP is the world’s largest provider of solar energy and active in further developing solar power and cleaner burning fuels. As for oil, he said.
“Energy is our business, and we still need to keep the business running while we search for alternative fuels.”
BP spokesman Paul Langland said the 2-year-old Pecos is one of the more environmentally minded tankers on the seas. Unlike most tankers, it has a double hull to decrease the risk of a spill.
The Marshall Islands-flagged tanker has an Indian crew and is owned by OMI Marine of Stamford, Conn.