Thursday, July 30, 2015

Anti-Drilling Activists Block Vessel Departure

By Mark Edward Nero

About two-dozen activists with Greenpeace formed a blockade off the St. John’s Bridge in Portland on July 29 in order to delay Shell’s Arctic icebreaking vessel, the MSV Fennica, as it attempted to leave the Port of Portland.

The action by Greenpeace climbers is one of several protests, including a 24-hour vigil, in the area since Shell’s drilling support vessel arrived in Portland.

The Shell-contracted MSV Fennica has been in Portland since July 25 for repairs to a meter-long gash in its hull acquired off the coast of Dutch Harbor, Alaska. The Obama administration released a decision last week requiring the MSV Fennica and its capping stack, a critical piece to Shell’s drilling fleet, to be fully repaired and on the drill site before the company can drill deep enough for oil. Shell must also reapply to federal regulators for specific drill permits.

The climbers secured themselves in place suspended from the bridge with enough supplies to last for days. The climbers displayed banners with slogans including “#ShellNo” and “Save the Arctic.”

“Every second we stop Shell counts,” Greenpeace USA Executive Director Annie Leonard said. “The brave climbers here in Portland are now what stand between Shell and Arctic oil.”

Since Shell’s drilling fleet arrived in the Seattle area and then began moving North to the drill site, a protest movement has emerged in the Pacific Northwest and extending to Alaska. In June, activists in kayaks formed a blockade around Shell’s drilling rig the 40,000 ton Polar Pioneer as it left Seattle en route to Alaska.

In May, the Obama administration approved Shell’s plan to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea in the Alaskan Arctic. Since that approval however, both Shell’s rigs, the Polar Pioneer and Noble Discoverer, have failed routine inspections.

The MSV Fennica is one of two primary icebreakers in Shell’s drilling fleet, and is equipped with a capping stack, which Shell is federally required to have on site in the Chukchi Sea. Until the MSV Fennica and the capping stack are on site in Alaska and Shell is granted federal drilling permits, the company can only drill top wells, thousands of feet above any projected oil.