Further permits needed for Shell’s Arctic rig to be moored in Seattle

Further permits needed for Shell's Arctic rig to be moored in Seattle
Polar Pioneer drilling rig (Image source: Statoil)

Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development (DPD) yesterday ruled that the proposed use of the Port of Seattle’s Terminal 5 for the mooring of Shell’s semi-submersible drilling rig, to be used for drilling offshore Alaska, requires a new permit.

This interpretation was generated in response to general questions DPD has received regarding a proposal to moor an exploratory drilling rig and two accompanying tugboats at the Terminal 5 facility for periods of approximately six months a year when the drilling rig is not in use in the Arctic.

The department has concluded that an additional use permit is required for the proposed seasonal moorage of the Transocean-owned Polar Pioneer drilling rig and accompanying tugboats, as the terminal is registered as a cargo terminal, not intended for offshore drilling rigs and equipment.

The central issue is whether this proposed use requires a new use permit. This determination is based on the information the Port and its lessee, Foss Maritime, have provided regarding the proposed activities at Terminal 5.

Two drilling rigs are destined for Seattle: the Polar Pioneer and the Noble Discoverer. The information provided by the Port indicates that only one of these, Polar Pioneer, would moor at Terminal 5.


Time for green?


Seattle Mayor Ed Murray has welcomed the decision saying it’s time to focus on green technology.

“To prevent the full force of climate change, it’s time to turn the page on things like coal trains, oil trains and oil drilling rigs. It’s time to focus on the economy of the future: electric cars and transit, green homes and environmentally progressive businesses.

“I expect the port to obtain all required city permits before any moorage or work begins at T5 on off-shore oil drilling equipment. While requiring a new permit may not stop the port’s plans, it does give the port an opportunity to pause and rethink this issue.

“I urge the port to consider, is this really the right use of Terminal 5, even for the short term? Does this use reflect the businesses of the future we want in Seattle?

“This is an opportunity for the port and all of us to make a bold statement about how oil companies contribute to climate change, oil spills and other environmental disasters – and reject this short-term lease.”




Shell’s semi-submersible rig caught media attention last month when six Greenpeace activists boarded the ‘Polar Pioneer’ as it was being transported across the Pacific on the Dockwise Blue Marlin heavy lift vessel to the Port of Angeles. They were protesting against Shell’s Arctic drilling plans.

Shell then sought court protection, and got it as an Alaska District Court judge granted Shell a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against Greenpeace. The activists left on Saturday, April 11, 2015, after spending six days camping on the structure to protest against Arctic drilling. The rig reached Port Angeles on April 14, and is still in the port.

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Offshore Energy Today staff

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