Dockwise's semi-submersible vessel Blue Marlin has arrived at Port Angeles in Washington with drill rig Polar Pioneer aboard. The rig is one of two drill rigs Shell plans to use for oil exploration in the Chukchi Sea, off Alaska's north shore.
Blue Marlin is expected to remain moored at the West Coast port for about a week until the rig is floated off and later towed to Seattle. The Polar Pioneer measures 400 feet long and 355 feet high was built in Japan by Hitachi Zosen for Transocean.
The voyage from Asia was an eventful one. During the Pacific crossing, protesters from Greenpeace's Esperanza climbed aboard the rig and stayed for about five days until they were forced off due to weather. Blue Marlin arrived at Port Angeles with a protective escort consisting of U.S. Coast Guard and U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Clallam County Sheriff's Office, Port Angeles Police Department. Security was needed to keep additional Greenpeace activists who took to kayaks and inflatables to reach the moored vessel. Coast Guard vessels maintained a 500-foot safety zone around Blue Marlin.
The second drill rig, Noble Discoverer, will pass through the Strait of Juan de Fuca on its way to Seattle sometime in May and will not stop in Port Angeles, according to a report from Washington's Peninsula Daily News.
In the meantime, Polar Pioneer will be prepared for its tow to Seattle. “We need to prep for and then remove the sea fastening that secured the Polar Pioneer to the Blue Marlin deck for transit,” a Shell spokeswoman said. Shell is still waiting for final permission to resume its drilling activities in the Chukchi Sea, which it stopped in 2012. The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has about three more weeks to complete its review of Shell's plans.
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