NOBODY expected it - the financial implications are enormous - but after spending weeks towing the most toxic oil platform in the North Sea to its dumping ground, Shell has conceded to international pressure. The plan had been to dump the biggest rig in the region, perhaps in the world, in two kilometres of Atlantic deep. The platform would have reached the chosen spot yesterday. But after days of cat-and-mouse games across northern European waters with high pressure hoses directed at Greenpeace helicopters dropping activists on board the juggernaut, Shell conceded defeat claiming pressure from European governments had made its plan 'untenable'. Brent Spar is a floating dump, a seaborne storage tank which fed tankers for the past 20 years. It towers 44 metres above the surface and 93m below. There are 40 tonnes of oil within its walls, 10 tonnes of heavy metals, 28 tonnes of aluminium, other tonnes of copper, cadmium, mercury, zinc, lead and nickel. The scale on its pipes and tanks is radioactive. Sea dumping would have cost HK$144 million, bringing it ashore for disposal four times that price. But the pressure had been enormous. In Germany the boycott of Shell by motorists is said to have hit petrol sales by 20 per cent. The protests spread across Denmark and the Netherlands too. 'Throw the English out of the European Union,' wrote one reader of Bild newspaper in Germany. 'Lock up the Shell managers in their oil towers and then sink them,' voiced another. Six shots were fired at a Shell filling station near Frankfurt, two other German filling stations have been firebombed and many station managers say they have received threats. The British were once again being painted as the dirty men of Europe with endless column inches given over to Britain's failure to treat the millions of tonnes of sewage it pours into the North Sea each year, along with condemnation of the radioactive substances going into the Atlantic from Britain's Thorp and Dounreay nuclear recycling centres. The political atmosphere was highly charged but John Major stuck by his view that dumping this beast in open, deep waters kilometres from land was the best option. Chancellor Kohl went along with the German environmentalists, perhaps partially because the Greens are rapidly becoming the third force in German politics. German politicians now like to wear their green credentials proudly. A few weeks ago, few outside the oil industry had heard of the great but redundant oil platform Brent Spar. Yet it became a bitterly contentious issue in relations between Britain and Germany with Chancellor Kohl warning John Major that he faced world wide hostility because of his decision not to act. Greenpeace, which placed four activists on board the rig to prevent it being sunk, argued it should be brought ashore and dismantled and that Shell, which has made vast profits out of the North Sea oil boom over the past two decades should have the decency to do so. Shell's case was not helped by the leaked report of a British Government scientist, Dr John Campbell, advising that the rig not be dumped at sea because of the pollution implications. A handwritten note on the leaked memo from Dr Campbell said: 'The bottom line is that the waste cannot be dumped at sea, the only option is to take it ashore and treat it.' He then came forward on Tuesday and said deep water disposal did not represent a risk to the environment. Shell now faces a dilemma. The German boycott has ended but it estimates bringing the rig inshore is six times more dangerous than placing it on the Atlantic bed. The platform is so large it will have to be tipped on its side, brought through more sensitive shallow waters and anchored. Two of its huge storage tanks have already been damaged and there is a risk it could break up in bad weather. The search is on for some deep water spot to hold the Brent Spar for a while and a Scottish sea loch looks much more likely a temporary resting place than the mouth of the Rhine. It looks most unlikely that the German and mainland European protesters will be happy to see Brent Spar buried in their own back yard. The environmentalists protested that dumping Brent Spar would create a precedent for the 200 other North Sea rigs that will slowly have to be disposed of. They will mean more jobs for someone but beg many questions about where and how as well. Environmentalism has won one battle. It must now be mature enough as a movement to come up with solutions to the problems it engenders.