JPL Designs / Shutterstock.com##Greenpeace protesters block a Shell Oil icebreaker ship from passing under St. Johns Bridge over the Willamette River in Portland.
JPL Designs / Shutterstock.com##Greenpeace protesters block a Shell Oil icebreaker ship from passing under St. Johns Bridge over the Willamette River in Portland.
By Associated Press • 

Ship leaves Portland after oil drilling protest

 

Updated at 7:15 pm Thursday 

PORTLAND — A Royal Dutch Shell icebreaker that was the target of environmental protesters left Portland on Thursday evening bound for an Arctic drilling operation after a tense standoff ended with kayakers and people who had dangled from a bridge to block its path.

The Fennica left dry dock and made its way down the Willamette River toward the Pacific Ocean soon after authorities forced the demonstrators from the river and the St. Johns Bridge.

Several protesters in kayaks moved toward the center of the river as the ship began its trip, but authorities in boats and personal watercraft cleared a narrow pathway for the Fennica.

Authorities also jumped into the water to physically remove some protesters who left their kayaks.

Portland police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said earlier that safety was the main priority as authorities forced protesters from the area.

“This is, obviously, a very unique situation,” he said.

The Fennica arrived in Portland for repairs last week. It attempted to leave earlier Thursday but turned around when activists dangling from the bridge refused to let it pass.

The icebreaker is a key part of Shell's exploration and spill-response plan off Alaska's northwest coast. It protects Shell's fleet from ice and carries equipment that can stop gushing oil.

Authorities moved in hours after a federal judge in Alaska ordered Greenpeace USA to pay a fine of $2,500 for every hour that protesters dangled from the bridge to block the ship.

In May, U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason granted Shell's request that activists protesting its Arctic drilling plans be ordered to stay away from company vessels and beyond buffer zones.

At the court hearing Thursday in Anchorage, Gleason said the hourly fine against Greenpeace would increase over the next few days unless the blockade was lifted. It would have jumped to $5,000 an hour on Friday, $7,500 an hour on Saturday, and $10,000 an hour on Sunday.

The Fennica was damaged earlier this month in the Aleutian Islands when it struck an underwater obstruction, tearing a gash in its hull.

Environmentalists hoped to delay the ship long enough for winter weather to prevent Shell from drilling until 2016. By that time, they hoped the Obama administration would have a change of heart on the issue.

One of the kayak protesters, Leah Rothlein, borrowed her mother's kayak and headed onto the river.

“It's pretty cool,” the 26-year-old said. “I was in the water for four hours.”

___

The following Associated Press report was posted Thuesday morning. 

PORTLAND — A Shell Oil icebreaker retreated Thursday after a showdown with environmental activists dangling from Portland's tallest bridge.

Protesters on St. Johns Bridge and kayakers on the Willamette River below have been blocking the icebreaker from heading to the Arctic for a drill operation.

The icebreaker Fennica arrived in Portland for repairs last week. The vessel was damaged earlier this month in the Aleutian Islands when it struck an underwater obstruction, tearing a gash in its hull.

It started its journey to the Arctic early Thursday before stalling in the face of 13 dangling activists linked by ropes. It then turned around and inched its way back to Vigor Industrial's dry dock, delighting those gathered on shore in the city known for environmentalism.

"I think it's inspirational," Portland resident Lisa Szot told The Oregonian. "It's a really beautiful protest."

The U.S. Coast Guard warned the danglers they were breaking the law, but took no action. Petty Officer 1st Class George Degener said the agency did not tell those aboard the icebreaker to turn around.

"I don't know what led the master and the pilot on board to come to that decision," he said.

The icebreaker is a key part of Shell's exploration and spill-response plan off Alaska's northwest coast. It protects Shell's fleet from ice and carries equipment that can stop gushing oil.

Environmentalists hope to delay the ship long enough for winter weather to prevent Shell from drilling until 2016. By that time, they hope the Obama administration has a change-of-heart on the issue.

"There is no Plan B, just as there is no Planet B; we have no intention of moving until President Obama rescinds the permit for Shell to drill in the Arctic," said Daphne Wysham of the Center for Sustainable Economy.

Shell did not immediately comment Thursday.

Portland police closed the bridge to traffic during the standoff. It was reopened shortly after the icebreaker reversed course.

The activists say they have water and food for the long haul. They also have their phones to stay in the social-media loop.

"The Fennica is headed back to its dock where it belongs — not the arctic! #ShellNo," tweeted Dan Cannon, a Greenpeace activist dangling from the bridge.

Comments

miketubbs1

Navigational hazards, all. They should all be fined as individuals at the rate of $2,500 for every hour they'd held up the ship, as well as motor-vehicle traffic on the bridge. IMHO.

Don Dix

A partial list of the equipment used for this protest include -- ropes, nylon flags or steamers, nylon sleeping quarters, kayaks and paddles, paddleboards, equipment bags, climbing harnesses, etc. All of these items have a common ingredient, petrochemicals. That's right, plastic, a derivative of the oil industry! Is there a more hypocritical path to protest drilling oil?

One other observation -- Oil being a fossil fuel (heat & pressure applied to decaying organisms), is found under the Earth's surface. How did these now dead organisms (plant or animal) live in an area that has always been known (for several hundred years)for it's cold, harsh climate? With that observation, would it be fair to assume the Artic has not always been a frozen wasteland, or is 'the science settled' on that as well?

listen*up

rubber bullets would have brought those bridge danglers down real quick,I would have paid good money to see that!

miketubbs1

I agree, Don, on all of the points in your comment, they are hypocrites all. ...oH?...and why are there no protests in the streets of Portland calling for a ban on Spandex?

Seabiscuit

Don, I fully agree. When I saw the first news video of this it was of a protester with her plastic kayak standing in front of some Ford, Dodge, Chevy and other fossil fuel vehicles which were unloading more plastic kayaks. Well, I guess they couldn't use wood because the Sierra Club was supporting them.

miketubbs1, I believe they do protest spandex...it's called the annual PORTLAND NAKED BIKE RIDE...on equipment and tires made with fossil fuels or with materials smelted by fossil fuel furnaces.:-)

miketubbs1

Seabiscuit, Gotta wonder just how many were tweet'n back and forth with Green Peace on iPhones made from plastic?

Don Dix

Greenpeace, the 'boat people', and everyone directly involved were within immediate contact to their handlers and each other. The danglers were said to be responding to facebook comments. Maybe the higher the level of hypocrisy the more media coverage can be garnered!

One of the danglers said he was prepared to cut the rope and drop into the river if the authorities tried to pull him up. It would have been about a 100 foot drop. Maybe he should have been given the opportunity -- you know, talk the talk, splash the splash!

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