Coast Guard detains 24 as Shell Arctic rig leaves Seattle

Coast Guard and local law enforcement personnel detained 24 people who violated the 500-yard safety zone established around the Polar Pioneer drilling rig in Seattle Monday morning.

The individuals were transported to Coast Guard Base Seattle at Pier 36, issued notices of violation that include a $500 fine and released with their equipment. Dozens of activists in kayaks reportedly attempted to stop the rig from leaving Seattle. Shell spokesman Curtis Smith told Reuters that the rig was on schedule and a second drilling vessel would depart for Alaska in coming weeks.

“The Coast Guard and our agency partners are committed to maintaining the integrity of navigable waterways and protecting the safety of the maritime public,” said Capt. Joe Raymond, commander of Coast Guard Sector Puget Sound in Seattle. “Individuals were detained after violating the established safety zone but there were no reports of injuries and we encourage anyone on the water to make safety their number one priority.”

Personnel and assets from the Coast Guard, Seattle Police Department, Port of Seattle Police Department, King County Sheriff’s Office, Seattle Fire Department and Washington State Patrol were involved in the enforcement of the 500-yard safety zone.

Coast Guard assets were reportedly continuing to enforce the safety zone around the Polar Pioneer‘s transit north into the Strait of Juan de Fuca. The high-specification semisubmersible Polar Pioneer is owned by Transocean and under contract to Shell. The 400’x292’x137′ rig can drill in 25,000′ of water. 

On April 28, the Coast Guard established 100-yard safety zones around Arctic drilling and support vessels while moored or anchored, and a 500-yard safety zone while transiting to allow maximum use of the waterway by all users consistent with safe navigation. Coast Guard officials can seek a maximum civil penalty of $40,000 for each entry into the zone or day the individuals violated the zone.

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