Shell Fleet Arrives in Unalaska

Monday, July 09 2012

One of Shell's drill ships has arrived in Unalaska and the other is expected by the end of the week. The Noble Discoverer pulled into port on Saturday, accompanied by a small flotilla of support vessels. While the ships were originally scheduled to bypass Unalaska on their way to Arctic, persistent sea could keep them around for a while. 

“We are obviously watching the ice very closely because it has so far delayed our entry into both theatres," says Shell Alaska spokesperson Curtis Smith. "We couldn’t legally be on site until July 15, but it looks now like we’ll be on site and start drilling sometime in the first week of August. And that’s disappointing, because that’s time, of course, that we will not get back. But we will make the most of the time that we do have.”

Shell is planning to drill five exploratory wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas this summer. Smith says each well will likely take between 30 and 40 days to complete.

The company is still waiting on final permits and Coast Guard certification of its oil containment barge. If and when the ships do get underway, the Noble Discoverer will be headed to the Chukchi, while the Kulluk will be headed to the Beaufort.

In response to Shell's arrival in Unalaska, the Coast Guard temporarily increased security. The cutter Mustang was in port for several days, patrolling area waters.

“The Mustang was here for just the beginning of the influx of the vessels," says Petty Officer David Moseley. "To make sure there wasn’t an issue with the local communities and fishing vessels and the amount of traffic coming in and out. But we also had some vested interest parties here in Unalaska, meaning Greenpeace and other organizations that were all descending here and we wanted to make sure everybody was safe, that there wasn’t an issue that could arise with the influx of ships and of people.”

In the end, Greenpeace ended up leaving port before Shell’s drill rig arrived and the Mustang left early Monday. Moseley says now the Coast Guard is shifting its attention to Barrow, with air support and several vessels expected to start heading that way in the near future. 

Constantina Landt on Tuesday, July 10 2012:

I hope the ice cooperates with Shell. I'm glad to see the exploratory drilling all the while I'll be praying for the safety of our men working and for the safety of our waters, the Bering Sea. It is my hope that Greenpeace doesn't become such a hinderance that the work cannot be completed safely. I like Greenpeace and their efforts, but only up to a point.

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