REPORT #2: Shell’s Polar Pioneer leaves West Seattle; 24 ‘detained’ in kayak-blockade attempt

6:27 AM: Picking up from our all-night coverage – right now, Foss tugs are pulling the Polar Pioneer out of the west mouth of the Duwamish River, a month after its arrival, and a kayak blockade is trying to stop it.

Heavy police and Coast Guard presence in the area, on sea and in the air, plus we’ve seen police bicycle officers at Terminal 5 in the wake of the rig’s pullout.

6:32 AM: The rig and tugs are fully out in the bay now and the blockade appears to be moving along with them.

6:35 AM: The tugs and rig briefly stopped but are now moving, very slowly, again. Commenters in our earlier coverage asked why protesters are trying to stop it from leaving, since they didn’t want it here in the first place.

They have said that the point is to try to keep it from getting to the Arctic in its relatively short summer window, to stop it from drilling.

6:47 AM: The group continues to advance toward Duwamish Head, tugs, Polar Pioneer, kayakers and all. The Lindsey Foss and Garth Foss are pulling the Polar Pioneer while the Andrew Foss and Henry Foss are behind. The first three also were among the tugs that brought it into Seattle from Port Angeles on May 14th.

7:10 AM: We’ve moved over to Don Armeni, which has been protest HQ for some days now. Red flags are set up on the shore.

7:19 AM: The protest group says there have been “several arrests.” No further details or confirmation so far.

7:47 AM: We’re still at Don Armeni, but about to move on; the rig is out of sight, and some kayakers continue returning to the ramp here. Most of the citywide media has left. We asked if anyone knows how long the Solar Pioneer barge will stay; no info on that yet. (As we reported last night, a cleanup is scheduled today at the spot near Seacrest where its cables and blocks did damage before it moved west.)

8:28 AM: We’re back at HQ and will be adding/replacing some photos. If any new information emerges later, regarding arrests or anything else related to today’s departure, we’ll update this story. A couple points in the meantime:

*Polar Pioneer is headed first to Dutch Harbor, AK, a 12-day trip, according to this Houston Chronicle story we linked and explained in our overnight report

*Foss has a 2-year lease with the Port of Seattle for part of Terminal 5, and the plan has been for Shell to return here after Arctic-drilling season. In the meantime, though, the permit fight will play out, with a city hearing set for July 23rd. As we first reported over the weekend, maritime companies are seeking to join that fight, in a group calling itself the “T-5 Intervenors.”

10:10 AM: No arrests confirmed but the Coast Guard has tweeted that 24 people were detained:

City Councilmember Mike O’Brien is reported to have been among the detainees.

11:48 AM: What the protesters couldn’t do, the tide apparently did – the Shell No group texted about an hour ago – right around the lowest tide of the day, almost the lowest of the month – that Polar Pioneer was “beached” off Bainbridge Island. We were away from HQ but tweeted it and then noted that it was indeed still visible in the distance from Alki. As of right now, still shows it and its accompanying vessels – plus Coast Guard and police – in the same spot off north Bainbridge Island.

11:54 AM: Foss spokesperson Paul Queary says it’s not stuck – it’s a planned change of tugs.

4:45 PM: The Polar Pioneer is currently passing between North Kitsap and South Whidbey. West Seattle pilot/photographer Cuyler Binion shared this aerial view from earlier:

43 Replies to "REPORT #2: Shell's Polar Pioneer leaves West Seattle; 24 'detained' in kayak-blockade attempt"

  • AmandaKH June 15, 2015 (6:45 am)

    How can the Coast Guard let it leave? Did it correct the items that it failed on inspection?

  • alkiwoody June 15, 2015 (7:24 am)

    Goodbye, Polar Pioneer. I will miss you. You were the most interesting thing on the port skyline (hate all the cranes!). Please drill carefully and come back in the Fall.

  • Brewmeister June 15, 2015 (7:40 am)

    So now that Shell is leaving, will be protesters now start publicly protesting Obama who signed off on the artic drilling?

    No, of course not.

  • John June 15, 2015 (7:47 am)

    Thanks you protesters! I seem to be a minority here in West Seattle, but I applaud you for showing our Country that Seattle cares for the future of our planet.

  • Lesley June 15, 2015 (8:14 am)

    John, You’re not a minority. There are just a few very vocal and negative people who regularly comment (such as a person who would rather look at an oil drill rig than our cranes, which are the main visible symbol of what our port does). We are very lucky to have people who are willing to dedicate their time and risk arrest to stand up against Arctic drilling and the heavy weight of a corporation which believes it can do whatever it wants without any regard for the rules and regulations of a city, or the impacts that its industry has on the entirety of the world. I just hope that once the permit hearing actually happens, we find that the Shell rigs are not allowed to return and it interrupts their strategy.

  • Brian June 15, 2015 (8:19 am)

    @John: You’re not in the minority. The minority is the myopic vision of those who would trade our lives for money. Also: That minority is very very vocal.

  • Old Westy June 15, 2015 (8:23 am)

    No, John, you are not alone. I too applaud this effort to raise awareness of the folly of Arctic drilling and our suicidal addiction to fossil fuels.

  • David June 15, 2015 (8:23 am)

    So does mean that ugly barge (Solar Pioneer) is leaving too or are the protesters going to keep having their parties, I mean protests?

    • WSB June 15, 2015 (8:36 am)

      David – we asked at Don Armeni and mentioned it in the story above. Nobody we talked to there was sure when it was leaving. It was reported to have a permit through month’s end. However, the stated purpose was counterpoint to the Polar Pioneer, so its reason for being here is now gone. – TR

  • Rick June 15, 2015 (9:07 am)

    That’s a Bingo! Brewmeister. It explains it all.

  • miws June 15, 2015 (9:23 am)

    You are not alone, John.



  • G June 15, 2015 (9:38 am)

    Judging by the hyperbole, the environmental movement has done their job well. Where are the reasonable voices in the environmental movement, those who can discourse without language that is reminiscent of religious fundamentalism? Don’t live in an intellectual echo chamber, challenge yourselves.

  • T Rex June 15, 2015 (10:08 am)

    Protesting is one thing but those protesting by attempting to block that rig put peoples lives in danger. Not just the protestors but the police and Coast Guard who were out there.

    And I am sure they would have blamed it on Shell had that happened.

    Glad they got arrested. Hope the fine was worth it. Now please go home.

    • WSB June 15, 2015 (10:09 am)

      We haven’t confirmed any arrests. 24 were detained (which is a step short of arrests), the Coast Guard has tweeted, and we’re adding that here. – TR

  • anonyme June 15, 2015 (10:09 am)

    John, there are plenty of us with connected brain cells who feel the same way you do – brain cells that are also connected to a conscience. The two need not be mutually exclusive.

    If that is “religious fundamentalism” then I prefer it to the ethical bankruptcy of Shell Oil and the government mouthpieces – including Obama – on their payroll.

  • Seatown June 15, 2015 (11:06 am)

    Latest report is that the polar pioneer is beached/ran aground just north of bainbridge island… Due to low tide…
    Can anyone confirm this?

    • WSB June 15, 2015 (11:48 am)

      Seatown, the protest group texted that right after we left the house on errands; I tweeted it but am just now adding it here. It’s still visible in the distance from Alki and should have been long out of sight.

      • WSB June 15, 2015 (11:58 am)

        … and that said, I have added a second update; Foss spokesperson Paul Queary says it’s a planned stop to change tugs, NOT a grounding. Comparing the current 4 tugs to the 4 with which it was brought into Elliott Bay, two indeed are different.

  • Yardvark June 15, 2015 (11:29 am)

    You’re absolutely not alone, John!

    It’s just not everyone’s cup of tea to get involved in contentious online debates, especially when some of the comments are filled with such ugly hatred for the protesters.

    There’s actually also a ton of support for canceling this doomed oil exploration among Shell’s own stockholders. Most other oil companies haven’t pursued this investment because, among other issues, there such a small chance that it’d even be successful from a business perspective given all the risks.

    These peaceful protests and the courageous actions of our City representatives are helping to increase that financial risk, that unknown delay factor, the negative PR exposure. Along with it, they are helping to shift the financial equation even more in the favor of those Shell investors who want this drilling venture stopped.

    Some might see some idealistic kayakers out on the water today. I also enjoy seeing Shell’s profit equation shifting with every unpredictable delay and nuisance that the company has to endure on this project.

    Stay safe and peaceful out there on the water today, folks! You’re making a big difference today and, more importantly, in business decisions for years to come. Just think what we’ll have waiting for them next year!

  • Seatown June 15, 2015 (11:58 am)

    ……not even out of puget sound and it’s already aground?!?! Really?
    That sure is confidence inspiring…

  • Wseattleite June 15, 2015 (12:06 pm)

    It is unbelievable how much bad information the protest group spews out to support their “cause”. I have been hearing it for almost 8 weeks now, and being close to actual reality I am aware of the discrepancy between a lot of what they say and what actually is. To be reporting that the rig is grounded now when it is not is icing on the cake. Incredibly irresponsible trying to do nothing other than create fear mongering and confusion. Par for the course I guess.

  • Truth June 15, 2015 (12:16 pm)

    So, now we have heard from polar opposites on the simple fact of whether it ran aground.
    Who do we trust?

  • ChefJoe June 15, 2015 (12:31 pm)

    @Truth, you trust someone who knows that the water is over 200 ft deep and if it could make it here from Port Orchard it’s not going to run aground unless it’s really close to shore.

    Oh well, 75% chance of a spill (if we err on the side of over-estimating and include expanding arctic drilling so it’s “over 77 years, eight production platform, 500 wells, 4.3 billion barrels of oil produced”.

  • Kevin June 15, 2015 (1:14 pm)

    To bad the Foss tugs could not have hooked up (pulled) the Protest barge on its way out of Elliott bay and taken it to Dutch Harbor…if you are going to protest for the Arctic, go all the way!

  • Yardvark June 15, 2015 (1:18 pm)

    Yeah, I agree with ChefJoe. Even though Polar Pioneer draws a whole mess of water, I’d be very surprised if it ran aground here in the deep Sound, especially with such a respected escort. Course, surprised isn’t impossible, I guess. Think what you will about the actions that Foss execs have taken in this obnoxious backroom deal with the Port (I might have a thought or two myself), but their highly skilled workers certainly know their way around the Sound.

  • sadtaco June 15, 2015 (3:34 pm)

    Man I really hope that ugly eyesore, Solar Pioneer packs up and leaves. Its annoying and just flat out ugly to see against the skyline and Elliott Bay. Stewards of the environment, have done nothing but damage the environment with their cables and cinderblocks. Strange too, that instead of hauling them back aboard, they just dropped them over the side and left them.

    • WSB June 15, 2015 (3:37 pm)

      That was by agreement with all concerned parties, that it would do less damage to leave them where they were when the barge moved, until a removal plan was crafted. The removal this morning (previewed last night) went well, we’re told, and I’m trying to get a few more details before publishing a followup including the official video, which was shot by “Diver Laura.” – TR

  • I. Ponder June 15, 2015 (4:11 pm)

    I can’t help but wonder if the ‘people’ who consistently make unfounded negative comments and cast negative aspersions on the protesters and the Solar Pioneer actually work for Shell, Foss, or a PR firm doing their dirty work.

  • Jeannine June 15, 2015 (4:45 pm)

    This isn’t a party on the barge!!! For God sake these people are doing the right thing! They are caring people defending indigenous people and speaking out for those who can’t talk, like the whales and sea mammals. Shell is applying for a permit to harass 1,000’s of whales. This is the end of our planet and people think this is an excuse to party??? These people worked hard this past month.

  • Jeannine June 15, 2015 (4:46 pm)

    I was a witness to this.

  • ChefJoe June 15, 2015 (4:56 pm)

    There’s certainly more than two nuanced sides to this arctic drilling/shell vessel in port debate, I. Ponder. Reducing everyone who thinks differently from your view to a straw man “corporate shill” is pretty disrespectful and simplistic.

  • Buck June 15, 2015 (5:14 pm)

    No, I. Ponder, I am just a lifelong blue collar West Seattle resident (a dying breed, some may say). ChefJoe hit the nail on the head. I would commend the protestors for their passion, but I believe that excess passion with a lack of reason can lead to ignorance. Add to that the intentional misrepresentation of statistics as fact (ie: 75% chance of a spill) and this can truly lead many people such as Jeannine to truly believe that “This is the end of our planet”, hence what I refer to as environmental zealotry.

  • redblack June 15, 2015 (5:30 pm)

    chef joe: maybe people will actually pay attention to port commissioner elections now, huh?
    maybe we can get a mayor and city council with spines and awareness, while we’re at it, instead of elected officials who are just as surprised and powerless as the rest of us.

  • C A Jensen June 15, 2015 (6:16 pm)

    The protestors I saw were rude, crude, crass and vulgar. There would be more support for their stance of the ruffians would refrain from lacing their rants with extreme profanity. Hitting people, stopping traffic and endangering the lives of others are not examples of peaceful protests. We need more of the type that Dr. King led.

  • JayDee June 15, 2015 (6:18 pm)

    True that ChefJoe. I support Shell not because they are an oil company (disclosure: I don’t work for them) but because they entered into a legitimate contract with Foss Maritime and the Port to dock their vessels there.

    The sky didn’t fall because the Polar Pioneer was docked at T-5 for a month, no more so than it has in the 6-years the Matson Luraline has been docked at T-18/25. Heck, there is probably a thriving octopuses’ garden and ecosystem attached to Luraline’s hull by now.

    I will be grateful for the break from the self-righteous and the hypocritical, and eagerly await the smack down that DPD will get for the political maneuvering and feel-goodisms the mayor encouraged if not abetted.

    Lower the demand for oil by not using it. Ride the bus, install solar at home, and you may help if the soon-to-be richer Chinese and Indians also follow suite. Lowering the price of oil will do more to make the Chukchi Sea unappealing than feel-good protests.

    But since we are supposed to be sensitive to the environment, the Alaska Pipeline is getting old. If you do not run a pipeline at it’s design capacity (for instance, if the oil Shell finds is not sent through it to make up for decreasing yield from Prudhoe Bay, etc.)then areas of the pipe get shielded from the flow setting up anodes and cathodes and the pipe corrodes…leading to large leaks of crude oil directly to the pristine environment. It is the law of unintended consequences, like going cold turkey off of drugs. This is not a simple problem and it won’t be solved by flotillas of protestors in petrochemical kayaks.

  • wb June 15, 2015 (7:19 pm)

    Mike O’brien- I heard you on the radio today. Thank you for giving your time and support. There are many who are sadly watching Seattle sell out for oil and arctic destruction.

    To those who ridicule protesters–would love to hear your green ideas. Oh and thoughts about free speech and the right to protest.

  • Neighbor June 15, 2015 (7:25 pm)

    Honestly, there is no nuance to what the scientists are telling us. The science says we need to keep the fossil fuels in the ground if we are to survive as a civilization. They’re pretty clear about that, those that aren’t are .01% and they typically aren’t climate scientists or receive pay checks from the fossil fuel industry.

    When an industry spends over a trillion to spread lies we do have reason to be suspicious.

    Big huge thank you to all those who made their voices heard both on water and off.

  • Jeff June 15, 2015 (9:32 pm)

    No nuance? Really?

    Rather than talking points, is there definitive science that supports what ‘Neighbor’ is stating?

    Could you please cite the definitive science?

    Methinks “to the best of our knowledge” is being mistaken for science.



  • Steve P June 16, 2015 (3:05 am)

    I’ve stayed away from this discussion since the original story came out. But for those who did not read that one I will repeat this one more time then be done with it.
    While it’s nice that people protested, it changed nothing. A minor inconvenience to the Oligarchs, hardly worth mentioning. Shell will still drill in the Artic and rake in billions of dollars each year. Why? Because people, including the protesters, keep buying their product. The people, including the protesters, are actually funding the very thing they protest against.

    Protesting is easy. Go there and hold a sign. Maybe get detained by police for a short time. To change the world and stop big oil… that takes real work, and is beyond most Americans imagination. People, all people, will have to make drastic changes to their lifestyle. Stop buying plastic goods… do a google search for all of the items made from petroleum. Dollars to donuts you buy this stuff every day. You will just have to do without them. Period. Yeah, it will be hard. Very hard. But it is the only way to stop big oil. Take away their profits and you take away their reason for being. But as long as you continue to feed the beast it will thrive.

    The solution is not protests. The solution is non participation in their money making enterprise. However very few, even amongst the protesters I’ll bet, are willing to give up their comfortable lifestyle and live a harder, more frugal, life. So nothing will change and the destruction of the environment will continue.(at least until we destroy ourselves and it can recover)
    So there you are.

  • sam-c June 16, 2015 (9:22 am)

    +1 to what C A Jensen said. The protesters were embarrassing. Back when much of this started we discussed some of it with our son and why people might protest (lack of Shell precautions to protect environment or animals up in Alaska) He talked about wanting to protest, but we never did. I’m glad we didn’t. The footage of the protesters on tv. ugh. i don’t want him to learn ‘protesting’ from those yahoos. Thinking that protesting is… being vulgar and yelling insults and all sorts of stuff/ gestures in order to offend people on tv. uhhh, ok…what a way to get a message across.

  • Neighbor June 16, 2015 (11:03 am)

    @Jeff- your parroting the well funded fossil fuel company’s play book with the science isn’t in comment…it’s taken from the very same pr firm that criminally threw that at smokers for decades even after they knew (records a plenty on this), that smoking did cause cancer and other numerous diseases.
    The science isn’t debated between real researchers, it’s in and to say different is a lie.

    As to those who say the protestors were an embarrassment….really? It’s nice when the media controls the dialogue they can show whatever angle they like. I was a participant along with hundreds of others that included professors from the UW to the Microsofters, and stay at home parents. It’s too bad you didn’t actually try to engage with one of us, we’re thoughtful, intelligent Americans who believe in excersising our rights. It might have been a good teaching moment for your kids.

  • G June 16, 2015 (11:46 am)


    There are plenty of independent climate scientists with solid scientific pedigrees (Richard Lindzen, MIT meteorologist for example), with NO ties to the oil industry who are saying, “whoa, let’s step back, and not get carried away with these apocalyptic predictions.” As far as media, if anything the vast majority of national media won’t even allow credible scientists to explore more MODERATE scenario’s for the future, and solutions. I’m encouraging everyone to think critically, evaluating all arguments. That’s it.

  • Alaskan June 16, 2015 (1:27 pm)

    Why does it seem that no one cares what Alaskans think on the issue? This is a development in our seas, that will most directly impact our state economy. I’m really glad that people in Seattle care so much about our environment but stop trying to force your agenda upon us. Look, I don’t support the raising on the minimum wage in Seattle but I realize I don’t live there and have absolutely no right to protest what Seattle wants to do. This oil could provide vital Alaska with a vital influx of revenue as the resources in Prudhoe Bay dwindle. I understand that the planet is everyone’s environment but stop meddling with projects in a sea that 99% of you couldn’t have pointed out 6 months ago.

Sorry, comment time is over.