A Russian research vessel which has been prosecting for oil and natural gas in the Antarctic docked in South Africa on Saturday following protests by green campaigners who say its operations in the region violate a treaty banning mineral exploration.
Several members of the Extinct Rebellion environmental group held banners reading “Hands off Antarctica” as the polar explorer ship Akademik Alexander Karpinsky arrives as scheduled in Cape Town’s port in the morning.
The protest was organised by Extinction Rebellion (XR) Cape Town and GreenPeace Cape Town volunteers who were joined by a host of other organisations including the Wildlife and Environmental Society of South Africa (Wessa) and its youth, The Green Connection and 350 Africa.
Over almost 25 years, the ship has been mapping Antarctica’s warming Southern Ocean for hydrocarbons, the building blocks for oil and gas. In the process, the protesters believe, the ship and others like it are harmful.
Antarctica’s vulnerable marine ecosystems and inflicted sonic distress on marine species, including critically endangered blue whales and emperor penguins.
Earlier this week, several dozen protesters demonstrated at the port, saying the ship’s seismic surveys in the Antarctic were a threat to marine life in the area and violated a 1958 international agreement.
A 1998 amendment to the 55-nation Antarctic Treaty, to which both Russia and South Africa are signatories, prohibits all mineral explorations and extractions in the region.
RosGeo, the state-owned Russian exploration company that operates the Akademik Alexander Karpinsky, says it has been conducting research in Russia’s designated part of Antarctica since 1970 to explore for hydrocarbons.
The ship’s arrival comes just days after a controversial meeting between International Relations and Co-operation Minister Naledi Pandor and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
Source: News24, IOL, Times Live, image from Twitter: @RantsSouth