Greenpeace’s inventive bridge-dangling action gained a temporary victory on Thursday morning when the protest seemed to force Shell-hired icebreaker Fennica to turn around and head back to its Portland, Oregon, dock.
But around nine hours later the protesters had been removed from the bridge by authorities and the Fennica (4,800 dwt, built 1993) was able to proceed out under the St Johns Bridge and along the Willamette River on its way back to Shell’s Arctic drilling location.
Local, state and federal agencies combined in the operation to bring protesters down safely from their perches on ropes under the bridge. Police rappelled into position, cut the activists’ tag lines and attached them to the authorities’ lines before lowering them down to a boat where they were arrested.
Only three of the 13 dangling protesters needed to be cleared before the path was wide enough for the Fennica to make its move.
Even then there was a minor delay when a group of kayaktivists tried to impede the icebreaker’s progress but they were soon rounded up by authorities in river patrol boats and on jetskis.
The protest began on Wednesday with a group of 13 activists, opposed to Shell’s imminent Arctic drilling campaign, suspending themselves from the bridge.
The Fennica, a vessel crucial to Shell’s Arctic campaign, had to pass down the river to head back to Alaska after receiving repair work in Portland.
Environmentalists had hoped to delay the ship long enough for winter weather to prevent Shell from drilling in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska until 2016. The Shell campaign can’t drill deep in oil zones until the Fennica is present because the ship carries a piece of equipment required in the event of a well blowout.