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Polar Pioneer arrives in Dutch Harbor for Chukchi Sea drilling

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Screen Shot 2015-06-11 at 19.31.15By Chris Klint, Senior Digital Producer, [email protected]; June 28, 2015

The first of two drilling rigs, scheduled to conduct exploratory drilling for Shell in the Chukchi Sea this summer, has arrived in the Aleutian Islands port of Dutch Harbor this weekend.

The federal government has given Transocean’s Polar Pioneer, contracted by Shell, a green light to drill in the Chukchi this year along with the drillship Noble Discoverer. Shell spokeswoman Megan Baldino said Sunday morning that the Polar Pioneer reached Dutch Harbor at about 2 a.m. Saturday.

“It arrived there safely,” Baldino said.

The Polar Pioneer’s journey from Asia has been a long one, marked by Outside protests en route. As the rig was crossing the Pacific Ocean in April, it was boarded near Hawaii by six members of Greenpeace, who spent a few days on board. The move prompted Shell to request and receive an injunction against Greenpeace protecting its drilling operations this year.

Upon its arrival in Washington state, the Polar Pioneer was greeted and later seen off when it left for Alaska by crowds of self-proclaimed “kayaktivists.” Even at anchor its presence remained controversial, with hundreds of people gathering at a weekend “Shell No” event in May and two protesters chaining themselves to the oil-spill containment barge Arctic Challenger as environmental-law group Earthjustice challenged a Port of Seattle lease to berth Shell’s drilling fleet.

Just one visitor to the rig seemed satisfied — Alaska Gov. Bill Walker, who said he was “very impressed” with Shell’s Arctic drilling preparations and that the “they’ve learned a lot” since a problem-plagued 2012 drilling season. Walker also took time to visit Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, educating the Democrat about the extent to which Alaska’s government relies on oil revenue.

Earlier this year, Shell said its 2015 Chukchi Sea drilling operations — announced alongside $15 billion in overall cutbacks over the next three years — will cost a minimum of nearly $1 billion even if they’re unsuccessful.

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1 Comment on “Polar Pioneer arrives in Dutch Harbor for Chukchi Sea drilling”

  1. #1 Gary Braasch
    on Jun 29th, 2015 at 05:58

    We were there when the Polar Pioneer was towed into Dutch Harbor — in Unalaska Bay, actually — in the early morning of June 27. Photos and other info, please see


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