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Actress Lucy Lawless boards ship to protest Arctic oil drilling

Actress Lucy Lawless is shown protesting Arctic oil drilling Friday aboard the ship Noble Discoverer at Port Taranaki, New Zealand.

Actress Lucy Lawless and six other Greenpeace activists boarded an Arctic-bound Shell oil-drilling ship in Port Taranaki, New Zealand, on Friday morning, causing authorities to limit port access.

The group scaled a 53-meter derrick on the Liberian-flagged Noble Discoverer around 7 a.m. local time.

Lawless told msnbc.com that her heart was pounding and she was "a little shell-shocked" as they boarded, but that she now felt safe.

"We don’t need to trash the Arctic to get three more years' worth of oil," she said in a telephone interview from the ship.


Even as police warned them that they were breaking the law, protesters remained aboard.

After about five hours, police told the protesters, including Lawless, they were under arrest and should come down.

Lawless told police the group wasn't leaving and "we feel we have no choice morally but to stay here and get our message out," New Zealands' 3 News reported.

Earlier, Greenpeace and Lawless tweeted the occupation.

“I’m on one of the oldest drill rigs on the planet and it’s heading to the Arctic. Tell Shell to stop,” Lawless tweeted.

Unique species
James Turner, a spokesman for Greenpeace, told msnbc.com the occupation was the organization's last resort to stop Shell from drilling in the Arctic.

"We simply don’t believe Shell's reassurances that this is safe," Turner said.

He said the Arctic is the home of many unique species, and an oil spill would be virtually impossible to contain, given the area's remoteness. Turner also accused Shell of having a "poor record" regarding oil spills.

Shell says it was "disappointed" with Greenpeace's actions, 3 News reported.

"Actions such as this jeopardize the safety of everyone involved," the company said in a statement. "While we respect the right of individuals to express their point of view, the priority should be the safety of Noble Discoverer’s personnel and that of the protesters."

"Shell has undertaken unprecedented steps to pursue safe, environmentally responsible exploration in shallow water off the coast of Alaska," the statement said.

The ship was due to depart on a 6,800-mile journey to the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska, New Zealand’s 3 News reported.

A weekend departure was planned, but Shell said the protest halted ship operations.

Turner said that Shell has a limited drilling window, given the Arctic's extreme weather conditions. Drilling can only take place when the sea ice in Alaska melts, usually between July and early fall, he said. During the rest of the year, thick ice makes drilling impossible.

Turner said the occupiers have supplies for several days. "We’re there to stop the tanker from leaving," he said.

'A peaceful protest'
But Lawless, 43, said she wasn't sure how long they'd last aboard.

"Our main aim is that this be a peaceful protest, but the law will do what the law has to do," Lawless told 3 News. "We do what we feel we have to do." She told msnbc.com that she and the other protesters have respect for the police.

One person was arrested at the port gate, 3 News said.

The police commander for New Plymouth, Inspector Blair Telford, told the New Zealand Herald that his office's role was to ensure any protest was lawful and that owners and crew of the ship were allowed to go about their lawful business.

"The protesters are clearly breaking the law by trespassing on the ship and we are currently liaising with the Port of Taranaki and the harbormaster to decide the most appropriate course of action. Public safety is paramount.''

Lawless is best known for her television title role as "Xena: Warrior Princess" and currently stars in Starz's "Spartacus" as Lucretia.

She told msnbc.com she hopes her children will live in a better world. "Climate change profiteers should not be allowed to destroy our children’s future," she said.

"Companies are addicted to oil; they’re begging an intervention," Lawless said. "Shell has the technology to be one of the world leaders in a clean energy economy."