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THE GUARDIAN: This week in 1995: Shell scuppers Brent Spar plan:

Tim Radford and Michael White, the Guardian, 20.06.95
Published: Jun 19, 2006

In this weekly series, we look back through the Guardian’s reporting and contemporary photography at the events that changed the world

Greenpeace last night claimed its most sensational victory in 25 years of environmental campaigning, after the international petrol giant Shell was forced to abandon its decision to dump an oil rig in the Atlantic Ocean. After harassment at sea by helicopter-borne campaigners, condemnation by several governments, and the threat of a petrol station boycott that could have cut profits by pounds 5m a week, the two tugs towing the Brent Spar, Shell’s 66,000-ton rig, last night turned round 180 degrees en route from its North Sea field.

As the government accused Shell of caving in to campaigners, the company said it stood by its belief that disposal of the rig in 6,000ft of deep ocean was the best environmental option but said it had found itself in an “untenable position”.

Greenpeace was “thrilled” with the outcome. Spokesman Robert Morris said: “We are glad that Shell have finally seen sense. We hope this will finally convince people that off-shore dumping is not an option.” Lord Melchett, executive director of Greenpeace, said: “People realised this was wrong. It was immoral, it was treating the sea as a dustbin, and I am delighted Shell has responded to public opinion.”

Sweden’s environment minister, Anna Lindh, said she was delighted with Shell’s decision. “Marvellous. This shows that it’s worth protesting.”

Germany, which spearheaded the campaign to halt the sinking of the Brent Spar, congratulated itself last night on a successful drive to end all further talk of sea dumping of disused oil platforms. Angela Merkel, the German environment minister, said she was delighted by Shell’s climb-down.

But British ministers were furious. The trade and industry secretary, Michael Heseltine, accused the company of caving in to pressure from environmentalists a day after John Major had given his strong backing to the rig’s off-shore disposal. Speaking on Channel 4 News, he said Mr Major “deserved better from a major British company”.

Shell’s decision came at the end of a long battle with Greenpeace campaigners, the arrest of two helicopter pilots, and claims and counterclaims about the polluting possibilities of Brent Spar, the first of more than 40 such structures in the North Sea that will have to be disposed of.

Greenpeace campaigners clash with Shell workers to stop the Brent Spar oil rig being dumped in the sea

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