Durban activist and head of Greenpeace International, Kumi Naidoo, has remained defiant, saying the organisation will scale the Arctic drilling rig Leiv Eiriksson again.

Naidoo, from Bayview, Chatsworth but now based in Amsterdam, was arrested on Friday with fellow activist Ulvar Arnkvaern in Greenland after violating a court ruling barring Greenpeace from boarding the oil drilling vessel.

There is growing concern that an oil spill in the region may be impossible to deal with.

Naidoo said yesterday that although his deportation conditions from Greenland forbade him to enter the area for a year, he “would not bet money” against finding “himself on top of some oil rig again”.

He arrived in Amsterdam yesterday from Nuuk, the capital of Greenland, where he spent four days in prison. He also spent a night in a Danish prison while in transit.

“They knew us by reputation,” he said with a laugh.

He and Arnkvaern were charged with trespassing and violating Greenland’s home rule order by entering Leiv Eiriksson, an exclusion zone.

They were arrested after they scaled a 30m ladder up the rig to hand over a petition of 50 000 signatures from activists in 100 countries to Cairn Energy, the operators of the oil platform, demanding that it halts drilling operations and leave the Arctic.

The group also requested that Cairn make its oil spill response plan public. “People deserve to know what will happen to their natural environments should a spill occur,” Naidoo said.

He was flown via helicopter 80km off the site to Nuuk.

Naidoo, speaking from his home, said that aside from nursing a bad cold and a chesty cough, he was doing well.

“We were treated with kindness and support even by those who arrested us.

“The workers on the oil rig were also very respectful,” he said.

Naidoo said he was aware that some critics had dismissed his part in the incident as part of a publicity stunt and claimed it had received vast media attention only because he was involved. He dismissed these claims.

“I’ve always had the view that the leadership collective of any organisation is not more important than other people – our young activists lead the way,” he said.

Naidoo was speaking of a recent incident when 20 other Greenpeace activists boarded the same oil rig for four days and were held for nearly two weeks in Nuuk’s Institution Prison before being deported.

Nobody, he said, was “too important” or “too busy” to lend their support to a cause they believed in.

“I refuse to apologise for bringing awareness to a cause that is totally legitimate,” he said.

Naidoo likened the fight against climate change to various other struggles for equality and justice that other people had faced.

“Various world leaders like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King were vilified during their time – they were both imprisoned.

“We look to people like these as our inspiration, people who stood up for what they believed in. History will look back on our efforts and praise them,” he said.

Naidoo said the action they had taken on the oil rig had brought them closer to their aim of helping to put a moratorium on Arctic drilling.

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