Royal Dutch Shell’s plans of drilling in the Arctic have been faced with another obstacle with the Finnish M/V Fennica icebreaker being forced to return back to port after finding an underwater gash in its hull. The company is currently in the process of determining if whether or not the repair procedures can be carried out onside or if they would call for drydocking the vessel. The breech has a length of three feet and is almost half an inch wide.
The setback is quite significant as the ship was carrying a very important capping stack, which is employed for the purposes of containing an oil flow when an accident occurs. According to oil exporters if the primary and secondary blowout prevention equipment is to fail during the drilling processes, the capping stack is the only defense measure left against an oil spillage. It is essential for this piece of equipment to be present on site while Shell performs its drilling operations in the Arctic.
The gash was noticed last Friday when the vessel departed from Dutch Harbor, the cause, however, remains unknown. A spokesperson for Shell commented that the vessel damage is to most probably not have an effect on drilling plans, given that the repairs turn out to be minor. If the repairs are, however, extensive, it might then require that Shell obtains new drilling authorizations from the United States government.
The ship in question is among the 29 vessels and one in a total of two icebreakers that are going to carry out operations in the Chukchi Sea during this summer. The icebreakers were appointed to the location in order to prevent any floating ice that may complicate the drilling operations on the Noble Discoverer.
The company’s drilling program has had to deal with a bunch of challenges such as lawsuits and a fair share of environmental protest actions. Over the course of the past two months, a large number of activists have organized protests, some of which were aimed at preventing the drilling equipment from being delivered successfully to Alaska.
The United States have stipulated that Shell can only drill one well at a time because of a requirement for a 15-mile buffer zone between each rig. The company is currently waiting for a final permit before beginning the scheduled drilling operations in the Arctic for this month.