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Activists board Arctic-bound oil rig

Greenpeace group plans protest banner

Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska – Six Greenpeace activists protesting Arctic offshore drilling on Monday boarded a drill rig as it was transported across the Pacific Ocean toward Seattle, where it will be staged for drilling on Shell leases in Alaska waters.

The 400-foot Polar Pioneer, owned by Transocean Ltd., was on board a heavy-lift vessel about 750 miles northwest of Hawaii when the activists approached in inflatable boats and used climbing gear to get on board, Greenpeace spokesman Travis Nichols said.

They plan to unfurl a banner in protest of Arctic offshore drilling but have no plans to interfere with the ship’s navigations, he said.

Shell USA spokeswoman Kelly Op De Weegh said by email that Greenpeace protesters illegally boarded the vessel, called the Blue Marlin, jeopardizing their safety and that of the crew.

She said Royal Dutch Shell PLC has met with groups that oppose energy exploration in Alaska waters.

“We respect their views and value the dialogue,” Op De Weegh wrote. “We will not, however, condone the illegal tactics employed by Greenpeace. Nor will we allow these stunts to distract from preparations underway to execute a safe and responsible exploration program.”

Petty Officer Third Class Melissa McKenzie of the Coast Guard’s 14th District in Honolulu confirmed the Coast Guard received word from Blue Marlin crew members that a group had boarded the vessel. The office did not receive a request for assistance.

The Polar Pioneer left Malaysia in early March. It is one of two drill rigs Shell hopes to use for exploratory drilling during the summer open water season in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast if it can obtain all necessary permits.

Shell last drilled in Arctic Ocean waters in 2012.

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