San Francisco: A day after a false alarm that had protesters mobilising prematurely, the Shell drillship Noble Discoverer was really on the move towards its Arctic drilling grounds on Tuesday.
US Coast Guard (USCG) detained five activists who tied to impede the vessel as it departed its mooring in Everett, Washington State, and headed for Alaska. There it will join rig Polar Pioneer as Shell prepares to resume Arctic drilling for the first time in three years.
On Monday some planned manoeuvring of the Noble Discoverer had led protesters to claim it had tried to depart then but failed.
USCG arrested the so-called “kayaktivists” yesterday because they were within a court-ordered 500-yard safety zone around vessels of Shell’s Arctic fleet.
Shell expects to be drilling by the third week of July, weather and ice permitting in the Chukchi Sea northwest of Alaska.
The Noble Discoverer’s next target is Dutch Harbour in Alaska, which should take about two weeks.
Even as the drillship was on its way, Shell received one of the permits it was waiting for, from the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
However the permit, as environmentalists had hoped, specified that Shell’s drilling units could not drill simultaneously within 15 miles of each other, a bigger gap than the oil giant had been planning for.
The requirement falls under federal walrus and polar bear protections.