Dame Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry and Benedict Cumberbatch have entered a row over a protest which halted a North Sea-bound vessel for 13 days.

The stars of screen and stage have put their names to an open letter accusing Shell of waging a “callous and vindictive” legal battle against Greenpeace.

It comes after the oil company sued Greenpeace for £1.7million in damages last year in response to a protest at one of its vessels bound for North Sea work off Shetland.

Shell has said it “absolutely” respects the right to protest but argued the boarding of the vessel while it was moving was “unlawful and extremely dangerous”.

Greenpeace activists boarded one of Shell’s platforms in January 2023 near the Canary Islands while it was being transported to the Shetland Islands. The unit was occupied for 13 days.

Shell claims the incident was highly dangerous and has said the scale of the damages sought reflects the cost of extra security to keep its crew and subcontractors safe. The company is also seeking a ban on similar protests.

However, Greenpeace and its allies have accused Shell of seeking to “silence” the controversial campaign group through legal and financial intimidation.

A Shell spokesman said: “The right to protest is fundamental and Shell respects it absolutely. But it must be done safely and lawfully. Boarding a 72,000 metric ton moving vessel at sea was unlawful and extremely dangerous.

“In filing a claim in February 2023, we sought to prevent an escalation of protests on the vessel, which was already a danger to the lives of the protesters and crew.

“The majority of costs claimed were incurred by contractors and sub-contractors working for Shell, who put in place appropriate safety measures to protect all people involved, including the protesters."

More like this…

View all