The Noble Discoverer is once again in the news. This is the ship that Greenpeace New Zealand including Lucy boarded and occupied for 3.5 days back in February in their Save The Arctic Protest. There has been a lot of incidents involving this ship other than what it was intended for: drilling for oil in the Arctic. The Noble Discoverer, deemed unfit and dangerous by veteran seamen, is again in the news. This time it was for a fire (a small fire according to Shell. A small fire that caused a blast that could be felt 200 yards away? That's no small fire).
The latest is that it caught on fire. The Alaskan Dispatch reports:
A drill rig involved in Shell Oil's inaugural season of Arctic oil exploration briefly caught fire Friday morning in Dutch Harbor, an international port in Alaska's Aleutian Islands, according to the Unalaska Fire Department. Firefighters responded to calls of a fire at the U.S. Coast Guard docks at 10:22 a.m. Friday, where a plume of black smoke was seen coming off of a vessel, according to Unalaska Fire Chief Abner Hoage. As firefighters approached the docks they received reports that there had also been an explosion aboard the Noble Discoverer, Hoage said. The rig wasn't actually docked but was still hooked to tugs and its planks were not yet down. Hoage said responding firefighters spoke with the captain, who declined Unalaska fire department assistance since Shell's on-board personnel had the small flame under control. Curtis Smith, Shell's Alaska spokesman, said the small "flash fire" was put out immediately, adding no one was injured and the ship was never in danger. Smith described it as an engine backfire in the rig stack, a description Hoage compared to a car backfiring. Such fires are common aboard ships and happen when residual gases and fumes, left over in exhaust stacks, combust.
It would appear to be a small fire, right? Not so according to Peggy McLaughlin, Unalaska ports director, told KUCB Radio that she felt the blast in her office, about 200 yards away. That doesn't sound like a small fire to me.
Back in July, the Noble Discoverer was involved in another incident. This time the ship slipped its moorings in an Alaskan harbour, drifting close to the coast before it was towed back to deeper water.
Lucy was quoted as saying: "It was another sign of what a crappy tug that is," Lawless said. "The fact it has to be towed shows it's not fit for purpose."
Lucy said the incident was evidence of "the contempt Shell has for the safety of the environment". A sentiment that veteran seamen shared when they told Greenpeace the ship was dangerous. Lucy also said that: "A lot of old salts were coming up saying, 'it's a death trap'."
Lucy was due to be sentenced in New Plymouth Court on 22 November but the court case has once again been postponed by Shell.
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