Velda Addison, Hart Energy

Greenpeace’s anti-drilling protests have returned, and the target is a familiar one.

Shell’s plans to drill this summer in Arctic waters have attracted six activists to the Polar Pioneer, the Transocean-owned semisubmersible rig destined for the Chukchi Sea. The rig is being transported to the Arctic on the heavy-lift Blue Marlin vessel for use by Shell.

Greenpeace said April 6 that its protestors intercepted and boarded the rig in the Pacific Ocean, about 750 miles northwest of Hawaii. Equipped with supplies, the protesters plan to camp on the rig’s main deck. The group has been updating its efforts via social media and its website with updates and photos.

Shell said April 7 that it is seeking an injunction in federal court in Alaska to bring an end to the boarding. On its website, the company noted that the demonstrations are not “peaceful” because of the dangers to activists and crew in boarding a moving vessel on the high seas.

“Shell’s drillship Noble Discoverer and the drilling rig Polar Pioneer are on their way to the Alaskan Arctic. But they won’t be able to slip into the Arctic quietly,” the activists said on a webpage, The Crossing, chronicling their journey. “The Greenpeace ship Esperanza is crossing the Pacific on the tail of these Arctic villains. On board are six people who are determined to shine a white hot light on Shell’s reckless hunt for extreme Arctic oil.”

This is not the first time Greenpeace, which said in a news release that it would not interfere with the navigation or operation of the vessel, has used such tactics to make a point and attract support for its cause.

In May 2014, Greenpeace activists boarded the Transocean Spitsbergen drilling rig while the rig was en route to the Barents Sea’s Hoop Area. Statoil had plans to drill three wells there on the Apollo, Atlantis and Mercury prospects that year. The company had been cleared to begin drilling at the Apollo prospect, but the Norwegian Ministry of Climate and Environment halted any drilling into oil-bearing layers until Greenpeace’s concerns were addressed.

The latest protest against Shell prompted a civil action by Shell.

“While we recognize the right to voice an objection to our planned Alaska exploration program, we can’t condone Greenpeace’s unlawful and unsafe stunts,” Shell said on its website.

Thankfully, for these activists, Shell is opting to take the issue to court instead of taking matters into their own hands. When activists boarded Gazprom’s Arctic oil platform in 2012, they were hosed with water amid freezing temperatures until they left the platform.

Greenpeace has specifically targeted Shell in the recent past. Last year, the group launched a campaign that eventually ended toymaker Lego’s five-decade relationship with Shell. Lego toys were given to customers who purchased at least 30 liters of gasoline at Shell filling stations.

The toymaker caved to pressure to end the relationship following an email campaign, worldwide protests including outside Shell’s London headquarters and a viral video that depicted Lego toys drowning in oil in an Arctic scene made of Legos as a subdued version of the song “Everything Is Awesome” played.

Greenpeace may have been the victor in the Lego campaign against Shell. But that might not be the case this time.

The group’s seafaring tactics appear to work well for generating attention,but have typically only slowed, not halted, drilling in the Arctic. In the case of Gazpom, drilling proceeded as planned.

Contact the author, Velda Addison, at