Foss Maritime said it intends to move ahead with its operations at Terminal 5 as Shell prepares for the summer oil exploration season in Alaska despite City of Seattle objections.
Foss Maritime said Friday it plans to appeal the city’s decision that the Port of Seattle needs a new land-use permit to host Royal Dutch Shell’s Arctic drilling fleet at Terminal 5.
Mayor Ed Murray said Monday the Port needs a new permit because the current permit allows for cargo loading and unloading — not for maintaining and supplying oil-drilling rigs.
Foss argues, however, that the current permit for Terminal 5 allows port customers to tie up vessels so goods and cargo can be stored, loaded and unloaded, “which is precisely what Foss is doing at Terminal 5,” the company said in the statement.
The company estimates the appeal process will take months to complete. In the meantime Foss intends to move ahead with its operations at Terminal 5 as Shell prepares for the summer oil-exploration season in Alaska.
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“The city’s position is not supported by the plain language of the permit at issue, and will cause long-term harm to the maritime industry as a whole,” Foss said in the release. “This action is akin to the mayor ordering Seattle City Light to cut off all electricity to Amazon on the Friday after Thanksgiving.”
The port announced plans in early January to lease Terminal 5 to Foss, whose customer is Shell. Port Chief Executive Ted Fick on Feb. 9 signed the agreement, which is worth $13.17 million over two years, to use 50 acres of the 156-acre Terminal 5. Arctic-support vessels have been in and out of the terminal since April.
The agreement has drawn fierce criticism from environmental activists because of fears that Arctic drilling could result in oil spills and additional fossil-fuel consumption contributing to climate change.
In March, a coalition of environmental groups sued the port and Foss, arguing that basing Shell’s oil-drilling fleet at Terminal 5 will fundamentally change its use as a cargo terminal, which would require a new environmental review.
That case is scheduled for a summary-judgment hearing on July 31.
“This is sort of a crisis of their own making, both the Port and Foss,” said Patti Goldman, an Earthjustice attorney representing the environmental coalition. She said she is encouraged to hear that Shell is looking at some alternatives.
Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said the company doesn’t expect any recent developments to delay its plans to drill in the Chukchi Sea this summer.
“We continue to watch closely the actions of all interested parties,” he said in an email statement. “We are also using this time to work other potential options.”
He said Terminal 5 is the most attractive option because Seattle makes logistical sense with its deep-water port, the loading space and the workforce required to load drilling rigs and supply vessels.
A flotilla of kayakers plans to take to the water May 16 to protest, but it is still unknown when Shell’s drilling rigs will arrive in Seattle.
Shell’s Polar Pioneer drilling rig is in Port Angeles and the drillship Noble Discoverer is slated to arrive in Everett next week.
The port plans to discuss the issue at a public meeting Tuesday.