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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Greenpeace M/V Esperanza in Elliott Bay

M/V Esperanza, the largest vessel in the Greenpeace fleet, entered Elliott Bay yesterday and is at anchor off Duwamish Head.

It appears that Esperanza is shadowing two drillships, Kulluk and Noble Discoverer, that are operated by Shell Oil Co. and undergoing extensive modifications at Seattle's Vigor Shipyards. It was reported late last week by the Seattle PI that modifications to the Kulluk will be completed by June 1. According to the West Seattle Blog, both drillships are scheduled to depart in June for Arctic waters.

Melting sea ice in the Arctic has made it possible for oil companies to conduct offshore exploration in areas not previously open to drilling. Greenpeace opposes these activities.

In February 2012, seven Greenpeace activists including actress Lucy Lawless boarded Noble Discoverer in the port of Taranaki, New Zealand. Lawless and the other protestors were arrested following a four-day occupation of the vessel.

In March 2012, a U.S District Court in Alaska issued a preliminary injunction prohibiting Greenpeace from breaking into or trespassing on Kulluk, Noble Discoverer, and 17 other vessels when located within U.S. navigable and territorial waters, i.e., within 12 miles from shore. The injunction also prohibits Greenpeace from interfering with the operation, movement or progress of these vessels and establishes a 1,000-meter safety zone around both Kulluk and Noble Discoverer. On May 29, the injunction's protection was extended to all areas with 200 miles from shore.

At present, Esperanza appears to be anchored about 1 nautical mile from Vigor Shipyards, where Kulluk and Noble Discoverer are berthed -- just beyond the 1,000-meter safety zone established by the injunction.

In a related development, the Alaska Journal of Commerce reports that on May 25 the 9th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals upheld the government's approval of an exploration plan filed by Shell to explore its offshore leases in the Arctic.

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