Kayaktivists in Portland on vigil to blockade Shell icebreaker

Green activists in Portland, Oregon, on Tuesday were preparing to make a 24-hour vigil and form a blockade of kayaks and other small boats at the city’s Cathedral Park boat ramp in an effort to impede the Shell icebreaker Fennica when it heads down the Willamette River to rejoin the oil giant’s Arctic fleet.

The Fennica is essential to the Shell operation because it is carrying a device called a capping stack, which can be used to contain a marine well blowout.

The 381-foot Finnish vessel hired by Shell has been undergoing repairs at Vigor Industrial’s Shipyard on Swan Island. It had sustained a gash to its hull early this month while heading out of Dutch Harbour, Alaska on its way to Shell’s drilling site in the Chukchi Sea.

A restraining order obtained by Shell from an Alaska judge is still in play and the US Coast Guard said people need to stay at least 500 yards away from the front of the Fennica when it’s under way.

The blockade is a tactic tried by protesters in Seattle, Washington, when several vessels of the Shell fleet were using that city’s waters as a staging post in recent months.

It did not succeed in stopping any of the craft but did garner much publicity for the so-called “kayaktivists” and their concerns about the risk Shell’s drilling campaign poses to the Arctic environment.

About 50 kayaktivists are expected to be involved this time.


Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.
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