While the problems of over-fishing and eutrophication continue largely unchecked, the Ospar Commission, which exists to improve the quality of European seas, requires governments, the public and the oil companies to find £20 billion to remove millions of tonnes of steel to demonstrate its commitment to the mantra that ‘the seas are not dustbins’ The decision, taken in 1998, was made despite a paucity of evidence to identify the environmental impact redundant rigs create, despite the absence of scientific support to demonstrate that removal is the best practicable environmental option and in the knowledge that the decision had more to do with a green anti-oil agenda than with improving marine quality


The decision made at Sintra, Portugal, in 1998 which requires all redundant North Sea oil and gas platforms to be removed for recycling ashore may, we believe, be shown in the fullness of time not to be in the best interests of the environment Moreover, and perhaps more importantly, we believe that the manner in which the decision was made is lacking in important respects

Brent Spar

The chain of events which culminated in the Sintra decision began with Brent Spar At the time, it was difficult not to support Greenpeace over the issue Anyone in charge of Greenpeace when the decision was made to dump a 60,000 tonne piece of rubbish in the Atlantic, would have found, just like the incumbents, that he or she had no choice but to oppose such plans All the elements of a classic Greenpeace campaign were there for the taking, representing an irresistible opportunity to generate front page coverage for Greenpeace to rank with that it had enjoyed on issues as diverse as commercial whaling and nuclear weapons testing in Muroroa Shell could not have expected to have dumped Brent Spar under the noses of an organisation which has a fleet of ships and which has earned its reputation by defending the marine environment without incurring the wrath of the greens Such environmental effrontery had to be opposed Greenpeace could not have sat back while this piece of hardware was dumped before the very eyes of a European public from which it derives its support Conflict was inevitable

But even as war was declared some of us harboured a hope that the organisation would resist the dumping In order that the Issues surrounding the controversy might have been examined and explained rationally to the public through the media What occurred, of course, was that the media fed in a frenzy on the polarised views and within days, the public across Europe had been Infected with anti-oil industry hysteria Rational dialogue in the public forum of the media became almost impossible and in the confusion of a constantly breaking story, both sides came away bruised

Ospar falls in line

Brent Spar did two Important things it welded the green organisations to a policy of removal of redundant structures from the North Sea and it cowed the oil and gas Industry Sintra was a natural extension of that state of affairs

This content is only available via PDF.
You can access this article if you purchase or spend a download.