Penguins FPSO; Credit: Chris J Ratcliffe; Source: Greenpeace

WATCH: Activists board Boskalis vessel carrying Shell’s North Sea-bound FPSO

Environmental activists have boarded Boskalis’ semi-submersible heavy transport vessel, which is transporting a circular floating production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel destined for Shell’s oil and gas project off the UK.

Penguins FPSO; Credit: Chris J Ratcliffe; Source: Greenpeace

Greenpeace reported on Tuesday that four of its activists from Argentina, Türkiye, the U.S. and the UK had boarded Boskalis’ White Marlin vessel, carrying Shell’s Penguins FPSO. The event, which took place at sea north of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic Ocean, was described by the environmental group as “a peaceful protest against the climate devastation around the world caused by Shell and the wider fossil fuel industry, without paying a penny towards loss and damage.”

At 8 am (GMT) on 31 January 2023, the protesters approached the 51,000-tonne heavy-lift vessel in three boats launched from Greenpeace’s Arctic Sunrise ship and used ropes to climb onto the deck with a banner bearing the message: “Stop Drilling. Start Paying.” This comes just two days ahead of Shell’s profits announcement.

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Yeb Saño, executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia, remarked: “Shell must stop drilling and start paying. We’re taking action today because when Shell extracts fossil fuels it causes a ripple of death, destruction and displacement around the world, having the worst impact on people who are least to blame for the climate crisis.

“Shell and the wider fossil fuel industry are bringing the climate crisis into our homes, our families, our landscapes and oceans. So we will take them on at sea, at shareholder meetings, in the courtroom, online and at their headquarters. We won’t stop until we get climate justice.”

The four activists: Carlos Marcelo Bariggi Amara from Argentina, Yakup Çetinkaya from Türkiye, Imogen Michel from the UK, and Usnea Granger from the U.S. are now occupying the ship’s cargo, which is Shell’s Penguins FPSO. Two other activists, Yeb Saño from the Philippines and Waya Pesik Maweru from Indonesia, attempted to join them but did not manage to board. 

Greenpeace says that this FPSO is a key piece of production equipment that will enable Shell to unlock eight new wells in the Penguins oil and gas field, which is located in the UK North Sea, 241 kilometres (150 miles) northeast of the Shetland Islands.

As a reminder, Shell made a final investment decision on the redevelopment of this field in 2018, authorising the construction of the Penguins FPSO, which is reported to be the first new manned installation for Shell in the northern North Sea in almost 30 years.

China’s Offshore Oil Engineering Company (COOEC) completed the construction of the FPSO at the end of November 2022. The FPSO left the Chinese yard on board Boskalis’ White Marlin vessel to embark on its journey to Norway. While it was estimated that the journey to the North Sea would take 55 days, the vessel was expected to stop at a Norwegian yard for commissioning prior to reaching its destination in the UK North Sea.

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Greenpeace explained that the protestors were carrying enough supplies to occupy the Penguins FPSO for days. The environmental group also claims that Shell is seeking to squeeze “every last drop” of oil from the Penguins field. At peak production, the project is expected to yield the equivalent of 45,000 barrels of oil per day while Shell suggested it could open up further areas for exploration.

“We will make polluters pay. They must take accountability for decades of profiting from climate injustice, and pay for the loss and damage they’ve caused. We need a just transition towards cheap, clean, renewable energy in a way that benefits communities, workers and the climate,” added Saño.

This protest comes just a few weeks after Wael Sawan took over as Shell’s new chief executive. Greenpeace underscores that Shell will likely face further pressure this week as it announces its full-year profits on Thursday, 2 February 2023, as it has already made “eye-watering profits off the back of inflated energy prices, driven up by Putin’s war in Ukraine.”

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The Penguins FPSO is a 118-metre-tall vessel, which is equivalent to a 42-story residential building. It has the ability to withstand harsh sea conditions and weighs 32,000 tonnes. The FPSO can process 12.75 million barrels of crude oil and 1.24 billion m3 of natural gas per year. It has a maximum crude storage capacity of 400,000 barrels.