Polar Pioneer rig docks in Seattle, ready for Shell’s Arctic campaign

Polar Pioneer rig docks in Seattle, ready for Shell’s Arctic campaign

Seattle: Shell’s giant rig Polar Pioneer finally arrived in Seattle from nearby Port Angeles on Thursday, marking the next phase in the company’s plan to drill for oil in Arctic waters.

It also should be the trigger for a weekend of eventful protests against the Arctic plan by an array of environmentalists.

The huge structure of the Polar Pioneer, one of two rigs Shell plans to bring north, docked at Terminal 5 following months of debate, protests and high-seas drama.

While being delivered across the Pacific Ocean in April the rig was boarded by a group of Greenpeace anti-drilling activists, whose daring boarding was a YouTube hit.

Now many more protesters are assembling, in spite of a judge’s restraining order to keep their distance, to draw more attention to Shell’s intention of exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska. Several of them were out in kayaks on Friday to register their displeasure with the Polar Pioneer’s arrival. And they’re promising a “Festival of Resistance” this weekend.

Apart from the environmentalists’ objections there have been administrative hurdles put in Shell’s way, too.

Despite receiving a conditional thumbs-up for its Arctic plan from federal agency the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management on Monday, Shell still needs some other permits from state and federal bodies

Seattle’s planning department has ruled that the port’s agreement with Shell is in violation of its city permit. Even the port commissioners who approved the arrangement this week asked Shell to delay the arrival of its fleet.

The other rig planning to dock in Seattle, the Noble Discoverer, was at the Port of Everett 40 miles north of Seattle on Thursday and also headed to the city.

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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