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Two Shell to Sea Protesters in 10 hour Occupation of Shell’s Dredger at Sea
Shell security breached and work stopped in successful action at sea.
After the afternoon confrontation in Broadhaven Bay which resulted in one man’s arrest and a couple hours of halted work for the dredgers (http://www.indymedia.ie/article/92555), the Shell to Sea fleet of kayaks headed out on the water a second time around 6pm and two protesters managed to board one of the dredgers, climbing on to the neck of the crane, occupying it and halting work for 10 hours.
The flotilla sets sail
Shell has been continuously dredging in the area since Monday evening, interfering with protected fishing areas for local fishermen, defiling what was once a pristine marine habitat full of dolphins, whales and other marine life, and disturbing sleep for local residents. They have buoyed off an ‘exclusion zone’ in the public waters, with boats patrolling the area to make sure no one crosses into it. There is a diverse assortment of vessels occupying the once pristine bay; the majority of these are either carrying out or assisting in the current dredging and surveillance operations. An Garda Siochana (police boat) have also been patrolling the work zone along with two black RIBs; The Laura Emily accompanied by its twin the Galltee, both brimming with men dressed in black military fatigues and video cameras for filming protesters. Other smaller motorboats accompanied the Shell crew, including ‘safety boats’ and a large white motor launch. There were tugboats for moving the dredgers, barges for holding the sand being removed from the seabed and, of course, the massive dredgers themselves.
A group of twelve Shell to Sea protesters in eight inflatable kayaks, two hard kayaks, and two rubber dingys set out on the water at 6pm for the second time in one day on Tuesday 2nd June. Three of the kayaks managed to evade the security boats and get close enough to board one of the dredgers. One protester began to climb the ladder from her boat while another kayaker blocked a security boat from grabbing her. The other protester used the tires on the side of the dredger to board the deck. Once on the boat, both protesters were climbing onto the crane within seconds. They slid down into the neck of the crane making it impossible for the crew to remove them.
Loud cheers were heard from ashore where people were gathered at the Rossport Solidarity Camp, and the mood on the water was extremely positive. ‘Shell to hell’ chants were abounding, and there were even some playful exchanges between Shell to Sea kayakers and a couple of motorboats. There were varying attitudes on different boats, but not all of the gardai or safety boats were unfriendly. Both inflatable kayaks which had been left in the water where the two protesters had boarded the dredger were quickly recovered. One was towed out of the ‘exclusion zone’ by a Shell to Sea protester, and one was brought on board the gardai boat and placed back in the water outside of the exclusion zone. The rest of the Shell to Sea kayakers remained on the water to ensure the protesters were not going to be dangerously removed, then began taking shifts to stay close to them and provide support.
In a surprisingly honest conversation between the kayak protesters and a worker on one of the boats, the worker stated that he ‘admired the persistence’ of the local community and supporters who are resisting the pipeline. He also said he thought the pipeline plan was ‘relatively safe’ and asserted that sometimes risks have to be taken. Unfortunately with a kill zone of up to 200 meters and the uncertainty of never having built such a high pressure pipeline through a residential area, the risk is high. This is why resistance to the pipeline is so strong; as one of the two protesters who occupied the dredger later stated, “Today we took this action in solidarity with the local community and to try to protect this beautiful area from being ravaged by Shell.”
The rotating shifts of support continued on through the night, with small groups of kayakers keeping an eye on their friends long after the gardai had left around 12am. Once it was dark and the gardai had left, the mood at sea changed. The Shell security and the safety boat for the dredger were the only ones left. The Shell security RIBs became increasingly aggressive towards the kayakers. They made multiple attempts to capsize them, and used intimidation techniques such as turning their lights off until they were up close then suddenly shining floodlights, disorienting and frightening them. One of the kayak crew reported feeling seriously concerned that the situation would escalate. A security guard even stated his intention was to sink the boats, a plausible threat given the recent vicious attack by IRMS on Willie Corduff. It was reported that the ‘safety boat’ also seemed concerned for the safety of the kayakers, and may have been their only protection in the situation.
By 4am, the two protesters on the dredger were feeling very cold and tired, and felt as if they had achieved a significant victory. They voluntarily climbed down from the crane, and were illegally detained by IRMS security and brought to Ballyglass pier where they were arrested and charged with loitering in a public place.
Despite the severe difficulties encountered throughout the night the mood across the camp from the kayaking teams and all the support crews was jubilant. Having breached Shell’s security and made such a significant stop to dredging work people at the solidarity camp remain in a defiant mood: watch this space for more resistance to the devastation at sea and on the land.
The current dredging work indicates the imminent return of the Solitaire, the largest pipe laying ship in the world. The Solitaire’s work is a major part in the construction of this pipeline. Last summer, strong resistance forced the Solitaire out of Irish waters with no pipeline laid. Local fisherman and protesters will ensure that the Solitaire will again be unsuccessful. Following momentum from the Rossport Solidarity Gathering there will be continued action against every aspect of this project. The more people and skills present at the camp the more can be accomplished. There are important tasks, on land and sea, for everyone to be involved in whatever your levels of experience. Anyone who is able to travel to Erris should do so now or as soon as possible and will be very welcome by the local community and the Rossport Solidarity Camp. Visitors should bring tents sleeping bags and water proofs, communal meals are cooked and compost toilets are set up for sustainable living. Come and see this beautiful place.
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org 0851141170
The view from the solidarity camp
Inflatable and defiant
Two protesters on the joint of the digger arm
Shell to hell!