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Seven protesters, including Kiwi actress Lucy Lawless, are preparing to spend the night on-board a deep sea oil drilling ship docked in Taranaki.

One man has already been arrested in connection with the anti-oil protests, and police have been talking to the activists on the ship.

They said the protesters will be left alone for now, but police will be keeping a close eye on their actions.

"Although the protesters are breaking the law by being aboard the ship, they are in an isolated location on the ship which allows both the Port and the ship to operate their normal business," Inspector Blair Telford said.

"We have considered various options and we have the skills, capabilities and equipment to deal with all options. However safety remains paramount and we won't needlessly jeopardise the safety of our staff, the crew of the ship or the protesters."

Greenpeace said the protesters climbed a 53 metre drilling derrick on the Noble Discoverer and then chained themselves to the ship's drilling platform.

Greenpeace said the Noble Discoverer is due to depart on a 6,000 nautical mile journey to drill three exploratory oil wells in the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska.

ONE News spoke to a man employed on the ship who said more than 400 people, including many New Zealanders, do shifts on board and he is concerned there will be layoffs if Greenpeace stops it from sailing.

Lawless, who is famous for her role in Xena, told TV ONE's Breakfast she is prepared to be arrested for this cause.

"I don't care, I don't care (about being arrested) I just have to do what I feel is right and this is what I feel is right."

Oil drilling 'unacceptable'

Lawless said oil drilling in the Arctic is "absolutely uncalled for and unacceptable" and "ordinary people" like her have to stand up and say no.

"Deep-sea oil drilling is bad enough, but venturing into the Arctic, one of the most magical places on the planet, is going too far," Lawless said.

"I don't want my kids to grow up in a world without these extraordinary places intact or where we ruin the habitat of polar bears for the last drops of oil."

The protesters unfurled anti-oil drilling banners reading "Stop Shell" and "#SaveTheArctic" on the ship.

Lawless and the other Greenpeace protesters are equipped with survival gear and enough supplies to last for several days.

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