Greenpeace ships shadow drilling vessels to Arctic

KODIAK, Alaska — Greenpeace is shadowing two Shell drilling vessels that left Seattle to start their journey to the Arctic this week.

When the Shell ships arrive in the Arctic to begin boring five exploratory oil wells, the environmental group will be there, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.

Shell Oil spokesman Curtis Smith said Friday that as long as Greenpeace adheres to maritime law and respects a court order requiring it to stay a certain distance away from the drilling ships, the company has no concerns.

The Greenpeace team stopped in Kodiak this week for three days and met with the Coast Guard to discuss the trip, part of the environmental group’s “Save the Arctic” campaign. The Esperanza will shadow Shell’s drilling vessels as they make their way north. The Greenpeace crew will then spend time documenting Arctic environmental conditions.

The Kodiak meeting was necessary to go over safety concerns and to understand what Greenpeace is trying to accomplish, said Coast Guard Capt. Gregory Sanial.

“With everything, especially in the Arctic, what we’re looking to achieve is safety for life at sea for everybody on the water,” Sanial said. “Our dialogue with Greenpeace isn’t any different than it is with Shell.”

The Coast Guard was also concerned with Greenpeace’s plans to use small submarines to document the Bering Sea’s marine canyons.

“I did explain to them that the Coast Guard has no capability to rescue that submarine,” Sanial said. “If it gets in trouble at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, there is very little the Coast Guard can do.”

Greenpeace plans to use two small submarines — one carrying a single person, the other two people — to take scientists underwater to gather information.

“Our intent is to document that pristine environment in places that no submarine-manned expeditions have been before and to bring back to the world images,” said lead Arctic campaigner Jackie Dragon.

The information, he said, is especially important “as the industrialization of the high north begins.”

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