The first boat of the Oil Free Seas Flotilla is sailing today from Bluff and further departures will follow from Wellington, Christchurch, Auckland, Kaikoura, Opua and Dunedin.
They aim to intercept Texan oil giant Anadarko's deep sea drill-ship the the Noble Bob Douglas, which is already close to New Zealand territorial waters, after a journey of 100 nautical miles into the Tasman Sea.
"This is the latest in a long and proud tradition of protest at sea", said Nick Young of greenpeace New Zealand, which is providing logistics and communication for the flotilla.
"It's made up of veterans of past oceangoing protest such as the Peace Flotilla that sailed to Mururoa, the Nuclear Free Flotillas that protested plutonium shipments through the Tasman, and the Stop Deep Sea Oil flotilla that worked in alliance with Te Whanau a Apanui to help chase Petrobras from the deep seas off the East Cape." Greenpeace is also sponsoring and crewing one of the yachts.
"Anadarko is about to start highly risky exploratory drilling at depths of 1500m", added Young. "That's 10 times deeper than NZ's deepest offshore oil production well, and the same depth as the disastrous Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico, which Anadarko was also involved in.
As we've seen with our recent oil spill modelling, if a blowout happens at these depths, the results could be devastating for our environment, economy and way of life. It's not worth the risk. It's time for New Zealand to Get Free from the reckless expansion of fossil fuel extraction and instead embrace a clean, smart, renewable future."
But the plucky sailors face the risk of confrontation with the New Zealand Government as well as with Andarko. Not only is the government promoting oil drilling in deep seas within New Zealand marine territorial zone, but they have also passed new legislation aimed at impeding the long-standing right to protest peacefully at sea.