EVERETT — The oil-drilling ship Noble Discoverer entered Puget Sound on Tuesday and arrived at dinnertime at the Port of Everett, where it is to be parked for an undisclosed period before proceeding to Seattle.
Ten protesters in kayaks greeted the Discoverer’s arrival here but kept their distance as the big ship entered Port Gardner around 5:30 p.m., sailed to the East Waterway and docked at a Port of Everett pier.
The ship has a 175-foot-tall oil derrick. In Seattle, it is to join a fleet which Royal Dutch Shell is assembling for exploratory drilling in Alaska this summer.
After the ship was docked, the kayakers ventured closer and unfurled two banners for the benefit of journalists in a Greenpeace inflatable motorboat: “ShellNo.org” and “Arctic drilling = climate chaos.”
“Shell no!” is the rallying cry of protesters this week as the oil company’s fleet — and protesters — gather on Puget Sound.
One of the kayackers, Jordan VanVoast, said the event here “is just a warm up” of what is expected to be a far bigger protest in Seattle on Saturday.
Lisa Marcus of Seattle said she decided to join the group in Everett “to make sure Shell knows we’re un-welcoming them. I’m concerned about global warming,” she said, as well as Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic.
The Noble Explorer is not expected to remain at the Port of Everett for long, said port spokeswoman Lisa Lefeber.
“It’s coming here for a brief stop to do some ship work and cargo loading and unloading,” she said. It is owned by London-based Noble Corp., which leases drilling rigs.
Shell’s Arctic drilling program cleared a major bureaucratic hurdle Monday when the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management approved a multi-year exploration plan in the Chukchi Sea.
Shell must still obtain other permits from state and federal agencies, and opponents said they aren’t giving up. They focused their attention Tuesday on the Port of Seattle’s decision earlier this year to grant a two-year, $13 million lease for terminal space to Foss Maritime, a local company that’s working with Shell to prepare its fleet for heading up to the Arctic. The city of Seattle has said the use of the terminal as a base for drill rigs isn’t allowed under the port’s current land-use permit, which is for cargo operations.
Foss said it will appeal that determination and forge ahead with its plans in the meantime. On Tuesday, the port commission voted to appeal as well, while it also voted to ask Foss to ask Shell to delay any moorage of oil exploration vessels pending further legal review.
Foss said it would do no such thing. Before the vote, company president Paul Stevens noted that the commission knew full well what activities would be occurring at the terminal when it granted the lease.
The nearly five-hour Port of Seattle Commission meeting on Tuesday drew a wide range of voices, including several people who traveled from Alaska.
“Drilling for oil in the precious Arctic is not on the right side of history,” Richard Hodgin, a drilling opponent from Seattle, told commissioners.
Representatives of Alaska Native corporations argued that environmentalists opposing the drilling don’t understand the economic needs of Alaska’s Natives, and Alaska state Sen. Cathy Giessel urged the commission to honor the history of economic ties between Washington and Alaska that date to the Alaska Gold Rush and continue today with Washington refineries handling Alaska oil.
Meanwhile, protests on sea and land are planned through the weekend at the Port of Seattle, where the Shell fleet is assembling. Tuesday, protesters set up a tall tripod-shaped structure at the gate of the Shell facility in an effort to disrupt work there. A coalition of organizations predicted that thousands would turn out this weekend.
The Discoverer entered Admiralty Inlet during the noon hour, accompanied by three tugboats.
The centerpiece of Shell’s plans this summer, however, is a 400-foot-tall drilling platform called the Polar Pioneer. It is in Port Angeles now.
“The Polar Pioneer is scheduled to arrive at Terminal 5 (in Seattle) later this week,” Megan Baldino, a Shell spokeswoman, told the Peninsula Daily News on Monday.
Herald writer Sharon Salyer reported from the Port of Everett.