Rig operator Transocean has called for Scottish Courts to make an example of environmental group Greenpeace over last year’s 12-day protest against supermajor BP’s plans to drill for oil in the UK North Sea.
The move comes as the Switzerland-based drilling contractor is taking legal action against Greenpeace UK after activists blocked the Paul B Loyd Jr rig from drilling at BP’s Vorlich oilfield in June 2019.
BP was the rig operator and Transocean the owner.
Greenpeace appeared in court Monday accused of breaching an interdict secured by Transocean.
In a statement, Greenpeace said it argued in Edinburgh’s Court of Session, before Judge Lady Wolffe, that its actions were “justified in the face of BP’s reckless business plans, which are fuelling the climate emergency”.
Nevertheless, Greenpeace executive director John Sauven faces two years in prison, and Greenpeace UK faces unlimited fines if found to be in contempt of court.
According to Greenpeace, lawyers for Transocean warned against soft penalties ahead of a climate conference in Glasgow due to take place later this year.
In his closing comments, John Barne, QC for Transocean, argued that the function of penalties is to be “coercive”.
Barne said: “With the Glasgow COP 2020 the wider public will be interested in seeing how the court responds.
“If in terms of penalty the court gives a message that this is okay, when there are other organisations out there that are less well trained and less safe than Greenpeace, it is important that people understand that the court can give protection and that that protection should be obeyed,” Barne said.
Transocean was not available to immediately respond to a request to comment.
Greenpeace said Transocean had asked the court to "make an example" of the group.
Following the hearing, Sauven said: “Today in court we were able to set out why we took this action against BP, a company which is destroying our climate and everyone’s safety and wellbeing.
“The reason we took action was to protect our planet, and to help prevent a climate emergency. That threat has not gone away.”
Earlier this month, BP's offices in London were temporarily closed as UK police tried to remove Greenpeace activists who organised a protest against the supermajor and delivered hundred of solar panels to the new chief executive Bernard Looney on his first day on the job.