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Shell may call off Corrib pipelaying for the winter

The Irish Times

Friday, September 12, 2008

Shell may call off pipelaying for the winter

PAUL CULLEN CONOR LALLY SHELL HAS hinted it may call off pipelaying operations off the Co Mayo coast for the winter after the boat carrying out the work was damaged. Shell issued a statement yesterday confirming that work on laying the Corrib offshore gas pipeline had been suspended following “technical issues” on the boat, the Solitaire.

The Irish Times understands a section of the Solitaire’s pipe-laying apparatus, known as “the stinger”, became detached. The 100m section was retrieved from the water but will have to be re-attached before the vessel can begin the pipe-laying exercise. It is likely the repair work will need to be carried out in Rotterdam, which may take a few months.

Sources said “the stinger” was not damaged by protests in the waters around the ship. It is believed it broke off due to adverse weather conditions, including high winds and heavy swell.

The 300-metre boat, the largest pipe-laying vessel in the world, has returned to Killybegs, Co Donegal, where a full assessment of the damage is under way.

The statement continued: “At this stage it is not clear what impact the damage to the vessel will have on the 2008 offshore works programme, which would still require a suitable weather window”. Shell said it would issue a further update once further information became available.

Local national school principal Maura Harrington last night spent a third night on hunger strike in Glengad.

She told The Irish Times the suspension of pipelaying would make no difference to her protest against the project and she would continue her hunger strike until the Solitaire left Irish waters.

Ms Harrington said she had seen a doctor yesterday, but declined to say whether she had been advised against her action. She said she was taking fluids, but no food, since 6pm on Tuesday.

Asked if she would end the hunger strike if Shell suspended pipelaying for the rest of the year, she said she did not trust the company and would have to “read it in print” and hear it from the Solitaire’s owner, Allseas.

A spokesman for Allseas, which has its headquarters in Switzerland, confirmed Ms Harrington had written to the company last month warning that she would go on hunger strike if its vessel began laying pipes in Irish waters. He declined to comment further.

Ms Harrington, who is due to retire from her teaching post when she turns 55 next week, said she was due to be working this week, but added: “I think going on hunger strike counts as a tinneas pearsanta [sick leave].”

© 2008 The Irish Times

This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times

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