Shell @ Terminal 5: City issues ‘notice of violation’ telling Foss, Port, Shell to move Polar Pioneer or get a new permit for it

The protests are over for now, but the bureaucratic and legal fight over Shell drilling rigs mooring at the Port of Seattle‘s Terminal 5 is not. The latest move, five days after the arrival of the Polar Pioneer drilling platform, is in the document above that we just obtained from the city Department of Planning and Development – its “notice of violation” issued to the Port of Seattle, interim leaseholder Foss Maritime, and “occupant” Shell Oil, contending that the current “use (is) not established by permit.” The notice gives the entities until June 4th to correct the alleged violation by either moving the Polar Pioneer and the Shell icecutter/tug Aiviq from T-5, or get a new permit allowing them.

(Friday photo by Paul Weatherman: Aiviq and Polar Pioneer @ T-5)
You’ll recall that this started with a city “interpretation” saying that the established permitted use of Terminal 5 does not allow for this; both the Port and Foss have filed appeals to that contention – the one filed at the end of last week by the Port calls it “irrational” and suggests that, taken to its logical conclusion, it would bar a variety of other types of vessels from using Port docks. (No date yet on the Hearing Examiner’s calendar for the appeal hearing.) We’ll be seeking comment from all three recipients.

29 Replies to "Shell @ Terminal 5: City issues 'notice of violation' telling Foss, Port, Shell to move Polar Pioneer or get a new permit for it"

  • onion May 19, 2015 (1:16 pm)

    Aside from the usual for or against debate about Arctic drilling and the purpose of the Polar Pioneer, does anyone on any side of the debate truly believe that the city would EVER issue the permit the city claims is needed by the Port, Foss, and Shell? I’ll bet the three orgs could make the absolute soundest permit application/request under the sun, and the city would still deny the request.

  • Brian May 19, 2015 (1:46 pm)

    The question isn’t whether or not they would but whether or not they should.

  • joel May 19, 2015 (1:50 pm)

    funny to see this from the city yet tent city off marginal was clear zoning violation – for 3 years between both times that space was occupied.

  • Ray May 19, 2015 (2:01 pm)

    I fully believe the city is not operating in good faith and will find any and all reasons to deny permits.

    Such a disingenuous and hypocritical band of representatives we have elected. But then again this is the same group that is abdicating their oversight of the tunnel project and letting that fiasco continue.

    This is the same group that turns a blind eye to other locations/activities that require a permit by law, but the city selectively choses to enforce (such as protest marches, tent cities, garbage violations/dumping violations, etc.)

  • innocentbystander May 19, 2015 (2:17 pm)

    DPD’s permitting decisions are often arbitrary, and in response to external pressure from outside the department–elected officials and staff of elected officials. This needs to come out.

  • Kim May 19, 2015 (2:18 pm)

    Do we know how long this was intended to be docked here?

  • Kim May 19, 2015 (2:29 pm)

    Also, seems to me that the drilling will move forward, like it or not. SO…wouldn’t this just be a good chance for the city to make some money from a rich oil company through the permitting?

  • ChefJoe May 19, 2015 (2:51 pm)

    I look forward to the port telling the city they need to move the fireboats away from Terminal 91 because they don’t have a proper “mooring permit” there.

  • Born on Alki 59 May 19, 2015 (3:17 pm)

    Ray nailed it. Worst mayor/city council Seattle has ever had.

  • Mongo May 19, 2015 (5:01 pm)

    [ quote ] The question isn’t whether or not they would but whether or not they should. [end quote ]

    No, for a government agency issuing a permit, the question should always be whether the permit application is requesting something that is allowed under the law that demands the permit – under a good faith interpretation of the law. If our government doesn’t agree with what the law allows, then the answer is to change the law – not to bend the permitting interpretations simply to achieve the result they want.

  • wetone May 19, 2015 (8:39 pm)

    Would like to know if the WS foot ferry has proper permits for operating a terminal on Seattle parks property ? Or did city change rcw’s to allow. This city has a lot to lose if it pushes to hard at moving rig and permits, along with losing thousands of waterfront related blue collar jobs. Something this city really needs now and in the future. City leaders better be careful as Tacoma would love to take all waterfront related work away and deservingly so. Watch out all Seattle waterfront related industries as you might be next………..and we wonder where and how our tax dollars are being spent…………

  • Azimuth May 19, 2015 (9:01 pm)

    How long has the city known about Shell and Foss’ plans to moor these vessels at Terminal 5? I and many other WSB readers have been aware of this for many months. So NOW the city doesn’t like it?

  • cj May 19, 2015 (9:28 pm)

    Get a new permit for it? There should be no such permit available here. Why are people talking like the city is one person?

  • KM May 19, 2015 (9:45 pm)


    Correct me if I’m wrong here: if there is no permit, the violation is around a couple hundred dollars a day? I thought I saw that in an earlier article. If that’s the case, its kind of a pointless exercise with the permitting song and dance–I’m sure Shell could care less even if the fines were in the tends of thousands of dollars.

    • WSB May 19, 2015 (9:48 pm)

      Hi – it’s in the document. Starting the day after the deadline for moving or permits, it would be $150 a day for ten days, then goes up to potentially $500 a day. And at some point, the city could pursue court action. These are all the same steps and I believe the same fines regardless of the size of the violator – yard junk, overgrown sidewalks, etc.

  • Buck May 19, 2015 (9:48 pm)

    This reeks of political corruption and egregious abuse of power. Soon the only jobs left in Seattle will be government, tech, and low wage service jobs. This furthers the assassination of the middle class.

  • KM May 19, 2015 (9:51 pm)


  • A. Anderson May 19, 2015 (10:01 pm)


    Good point. Dutch Royal Shell claims only $14.2 BILLION in profit (the lowest possible figure) from the incredible $421 BILLION they raked in during 2014. That’s BILLION with a “B”- add 9 zeros to your favorite number.
    That translates to profit earnings of 1.2 billion per MONTH, or 1.7 million per HOUR. Shell will earn enough in one eight hour day to pay the Port their entire $13 million.

    Using the ultra conservative $14.2 BIL figure, it will take Shell less than one second of operations to earn and pay the $500 /day MAX fine that the city’s laid out, or a fraction of a second if you use a more realistic figure.

    That’s right, a fraction of a second. Perhaps our city leadership’s biggest blunder is not making the fine for Shell equal to the pain of a parking ticket for the rest of us – say a paltry $500,000 per day? How it would sting when it uses up a whole 15 minutes worth of net income. Wow. 15 minutes = half a million dollars free and clear in their world.

    Your other Q: The Pioneer is here for repairs and wants / needs to leave for the arctic ASAP. The Northern Seas are only accessible a few months per year. Let’s all pray that it is here long enough to get the repairs made cited in the (EIGHT) FELONY counts previously brought against Shell for unsafe practices. Or, that at least they can get the Pioneer to the point where it can pass the regular Coast Guard inspection that it has already FAILED this time around, – before it heads out to the most fragile and inaccessible ecosystem in the world (and on which we depend).

  • Felix May 19, 2015 (10:22 pm)

    Shell is a great company, not only should we host and support their Rigs, we should pass a huge Tax Levy on the City of Seattle residents that will go into a slush fund to help mitigate the spill that is likeley to happen..c’mon, we can make this happen people….

  • Grateful for myself May 19, 2015 (11:50 pm)

    I just got back from 2 weeks in Brooklyn and was a little bit depressed by how homogeneous this this city is in comparison. But then I read about the flotilla and realized that Seattle is probably one of the few places in the world where you can go on a beautiful and leisurely kayak trip around the waterfront with your friends, on a beautiful Spring day, wearing just the right outfit, paddle around some astounding futuristic looking mega-structure, have your choice of a hundred good restaurants when the meal part inevitably comes, cruise home with the sunroof open and the blues kind of crazy loud, then check out the local TV coverage, mostly and secretly hoping to see yourself in some of the footage, but also realizing it would hard tell given the style solidarity of the group, except the Indians, but you wouldn’t be in any of those shots anyway, and although a bit disappointed, you nonetheless slip blissfully into those 1500 count Egyptian cotton sheets and drift off into one of the deepest and most self-satisfied sleeps you’ve ever experienced, knowing that the world got just a little bit better today because of people like you, and humbled by the privilege of being part of “the day that everything changed”. And all was well. Namaste.

  • Captain Dave May 20, 2015 (11:13 am)

    Hmm. Reminds me of the tactics City bureaucrats used to end our FarmBoat Floating Farmer’s Market at South Lake Union Park. If it’s not digital tech, it’s not welcome in Seattle. It will be interesting to see what happens when Amazon fails or moves away. The pin-heads at the Mayor’s office and City Council continue to completely ignore the security of economic diversity. Our elected clowns are setting the City up for an epic collapse in the next major downturn. Companies like Shell can at least provide some real economic base to our local economy. Imagine what the environmental impact could be if a quarter million people in Seattle were suddenly put into poverty by the demise of a couple frail internet companies. Should the City really be putting so much faith in the internet? Seattle needs economic diversity so that people can afford to continue to care about the environment through the rise and decline of all industry sectors.

  • JoAnne May 20, 2015 (12:35 pm)

    Great comments. Would only add that the city is happy to collect its share of motor vehicle fuel excise taxes from the state of WA.

    Not to mention sales tax from all sales of gas or vehicles, not to mention parking fees.

    As our morally vain government leaders join with their special interest groups to “protest” fuel production, they collect money hand over fist from squeezed middle-class taxpayers.

  • John D May 20, 2015 (1:23 pm)

    Petulant. This rig carries no cargo of shipment for oil, and yet tankers are in the harbor all the time. Its childish political antics at best and beneath any reasonable dignity of a responsible approach. And the irony is if the City gets sued, its no sweat off of the city because the taxpayers will carry the burden, not the officials.

  • Late Inning Relief May 20, 2015 (1:26 pm)

    As I was on my way to work this morning (and I was pausing due to the opening of the low bridge), it appeared to me that the Shell drilling rig had been moved from the pier at Terminal 5 to a different pier, across the channel (i.e., the other “bank” of the Duwamish “River”).

    Did I see this right? Is a new permit violation a-brewing?

  • G May 20, 2015 (3:32 pm)

    Grateful for myself,

    Nice bit of spoofing. If Seattle were a person it would be an awkward teenager who thinks they are the center of attention.

  • Captain Dave May 20, 2015 (3:48 pm)

    G: Unfortunately, it’s us tax payers that get to burden the consequences from the adolescent actions of our elected officials and their minions. It’s time to have serious discussions about real leadership in Seattle before they turn this city into another Detroit.

  • I. Ponder May 20, 2015 (5:12 pm)

    There was a time not long ago when we harvested whales for their oil, and thought that was a good idea. Drilling in the Arctic is clearly a bad idea. We get so much of our food from there and many species rely on it for their food. It’s an essential ecosystem. Should we risk spoiling it and our food supplies long-term for a few dollars now? Considering the Alaska fishing fleet is based here, I’m surprised at all the comments that ignore this clear risk. I’m thinking about all the jobs that were lost when we stopped whaling. Good riddance!

  • WSeattlelite May 22, 2015 (8:25 am)

    I. Ponder, You might want to look at a map. Not much fishing going on in the Chukchi Sea. Unless you count the Natives harvesting whales of course. The fishing happens way South of there in the Bering Sea.

  • redblack May 25, 2015 (9:20 am)

    captain dave: detroit is an interesting comparison: a city that was screwed by an auto industry that militantly refused to adapt to higher fuel economy and emissions standards… while foreign auto makers ate detroit’s lunch.
    comparing seattle and detroit is absurd.

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