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Shell returns to Unalaska with first of fleet arriving

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June 19th 3:57 pm | Jim Paulin

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Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 19.31.15Most of Shell’s ocean-going fleet will be anchored offshore, while laying over in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, before departing to drill exploratory wells in the Arctic Ocean; …the Shell fleet includes two drill rigs, and another 25 vessels for supplying the rigs and for oil spill response.

Shell is back in Unalaska, and trying to be a good neighbor in by not inconveniencing air travelers at the local airport. That’s why Shell has a separate boarding and security area, constructed at the local airport, to accommodate oil company passengers flying on chartered Ravn Alaska flights, according to Shell spokeswoman Megan Baldino.

The charter flights were put in place so Shell employees did not take up too many seats on the daily Alaska Airline flights operated with small Pen Air commuter planes.

The walled-off area inside the airport terminal has been leased from the city, which owns the building, according to Unalaska Ports Director Peggy McGlaughlin.

The security area is only a temporary structure, and the walls will come down at the end of the summer drilling season, she said.

Most of Shell’s ocean-going fleet will be anchored offshore, while laying over in Unalaska/Dutch Harbor, before departing to drill exploratory wells in the Arctic Ocean.

But sometimes the vessels will use the city-owned Unalaska Marine Center, and also the American President Lines’ dock, McGlaughlin said. Baldino said the Shell fleet includes two drill rigs, and another 25 vessels for supplying the rigs and for oil spill response.

The oil spill containment barge Arctic Challenger arrived in Unalaska on Sunday, and was docked at Offshore Systems Inc., near another OSI dock that was specially built for the oil rig Kulluk.

The Kulluk ran aground on Dec. 31, 2012, near Kodiak, while being towed from Unalaska to Seattle. The rig was later shipped to China for demolition.

Before heading north to Alaska again, the Shell fleet was based in Seattle, where it was opposed by both the mayor and activists in kayaks.

To keep environmental activists off the rigs, the U.S. Coast Guard is ready in Unalaska, with two fast patrol boats and an extra 18 personnel between June 15 and July 15, according to Lt. Aaron Renschler, the group leader. The “RBS” vessels – Response Boat Small, will enforce safety zones around the oil fleet.

Each 25-foot, aluminum hull boat is equipped with two 200-horsepower Honda outboard engines, with a top speed of about 40 mph, he said. One boat is from Valdez and the other from Ketchikan.

The crew is composed of 12 Coast Guard from Seattle, and six from Anchorage, he said, residing locally at the Grand Aleutian Hotel.

Vans are driving Shell employees around town in airport buses with Texas license plates. But those two white buses, owned by a Dallas company, will soon be sporting Alaska license plates, according to Shell spokeswoman Megan Baldino “Although it is not a state or federal requirement to have these buses registered in Alaska, the company owner has agreed to make the appropriate changes,” Baldino said Tuesday, in response to questions raised by the Bristol Bay Times – Dutch Harbor Fisherman.

Jim Paulin can be reached at [email protected]

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