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Coast Guard Proposes Safety Zones Around Shell’s Drill Ships

Friday, February 24, 2012

The US Coast Guard is proposing a 500-meter safety zone around each of the two drill ships that Shell would use if its plans to spud exploratory wells in Alaska’s Chukchi and Beaufort Seas this summer are approved.

Shell requested the zone to reduce any chances of vessel collisions outside of the normal shipping channels. The request was also made due to safety concerns for the Noble Discoverer crew, as well as the environment.

A 500-meter safety zone would be established around the mobile offshore drilling unit Noble Discoverer, which Shell has said it would use to drill exploratory wells in the Chukchi Sea. The proposed zone would be established from July 1 through October 31. Coast Guard officials suggest that the safety zone will greatly reduce collision threats, which could result in oil spills or the release of natural gas.

Any safety zone violation by unauthorized ships could affect Shell’s efforts to monitor threats to the drill ship, especially ice-related dangers. A similar 500-meter safety zone is being recommended for the Kulluk, an MODU Shell has proposed using to drill exploratory wells in the Beaufort Sea.

The company must still be granted individual permits to drill specific wells. Comments on the safety-zone proposal are being accepted for the next 30 days.


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