Arctic Oil Drilling Suspended

30.07.2015 07:51
Kategorie: News

Shell's Icebreaker Cancels Plans To Leave Port

Human Barricade, St. Johns Bridge, Portland
They are creating a human barricade so that the Shell icebreaker
cannot get through to go back to the arctic after repairs
(© Craig Mitchelldyer, Greenpeace)

Portland/USA, July 29th 2015: The Royal Dutch Shell icebreaker Fennica has cancelled its plans to leave the dock, amidst protests from activists who dangled themselves off the St Johns Bridge.

The ship had been docked at Portland for repairs since early July, after sustaining a meter-long gash in its hull while on its way to the Arctic for drilling operations.

Now that the Fennica has been repaired, a protest has started to prevent the ship from leaving the dock. Thirteen Greenpeace protesters dangled themselves off the St Johns Bridge, while 13 others remained on the bridge to oversee the safety ropes. Those on the ropes have enough food and water to last them a few days.

Other protesters kayaked in the Willamette River below, forming a human barrier to prevent the ship's departure. Banners demanding that the Arctic be protected could be seen.

Polar Pioneer Drilling Platform
"Polar Pioneer" Shell's Arctic Drilling Platform
and Greenpeace protesters (© Keri Coles, Greenpeace)

The Fennica is part of Shell's drilling fleet. It had been scheduled to go to the Arctic to support Shell's oil exploration there. Larissa Beumer, an Arctic expert from Greenpeace, said in German that the US government needs to finally put a stop to the drilling by Shell in the Arctic.

She added that if Shell did manage to find oil in the Arctic, there was a 75% probability of at least one serious accident.

In recent days, the US government ruled that Shell could resume drilling off the Alaskan coast when the 22-year-old Fennica reaches the Arctic. Prior to the legislation, the company was only allowed to drill superficial holes that did not penetrate into the oil-bearing layers.

In recent days, high-ranking US politicians from the Democratic Party (including Hillary Clinton and Al Gore) and US senators have expressed doubts about the safety of oil drilling in the Arctic. In fact, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley has proposed, together with five other senators, a law against Arctic oil drilling.

Icebreaker Fennica in Portland
Icebreaker Fennica in Portland

Shell's Track Record In The Arctic

Since 2012, Shell's oil exploration in the Arctic has not been a smooth journey, with several serious 'mishaps' off the Alaskan coast. These include problems with the oil rig Kulluk that ran aground during a storm, as well as the drillship Noble Discoverer. The company had to suspend drilling for two consecutive years as a result.

"All these incidents show how irresponsible Shell in the Arctic is," said Beumer.

If there is an oil leakage, there is no effective way to remove the oil from the ice-covered waters. The remoteness of the region and harsh weather conditions would hamper clean-up operations. Add to that, the emergency equipment Shell intends to use to tackle oil spills has never been tested in Arctic conditions before.