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Shell Under Fire After Sakhalin-2 Spill

Moscow Times: Shell Under Fire After Sakhalin-2 Spill

“Environmental activists renewed criticism of Royal Dutch-Shell’s Sakhalin venture Friday…”

By Simon Ostrovsky

Staff Writer

Monday, September 13, 2004. Page 5.


Emergency cleanup crews Friday rounding up some of the 189 tons of fuel that spilled into Sakhalin’s coastal waters last week.

Environmental activists renewed criticism of Royal Dutch-Shell’s Sakhalin venture Friday, saying last week’s oil spill off the Far East island’s coast is indicative of what to expect as Russia’s largest foreign investment project goes forward.

“We’re seeing how dangerous this project is at its very earliest stages,” Dmitry Lisitsyn, chairman of the Sakhalin-based Sakhalin Environment Watch, said by telephone. “This is the sort of thing we expected to happen, but not so early on.”

A dredging ship contracted by Sakhalin Energy, the Shell-led consortium operating the $10 billion Sakhalin-2 oil and gas project, ruptured Wednesday after being driven ashore by a major typhoon, spilling nearly 200 tons of fuel.

The consortium, which includes Japanese conglomerates Mitsui and Mitsubishi, said it was moving quickly to minimize the damage, but noted that it was not contractually responsible to do so because the ship that ruptured was not its own.

“Our representatives are on the ground assessing the situation and participating in the cleanup effort,” Sakahlin Energy spokesman Ivan Chernyakhovsky said.

The company claimed just two kilometres of coastline were contaminated after three fuel tanks powering the Cristoforo Colombo ruptured, pouring 189 tons of fuel into the water.

However, Lisitsyn, who visited the sight, said at least five kilometres of Sakhalin’s coastline was black with oil and criticized the company for not doing enough to clean it up.

“[Sakhalin Energy] has three or four representatives walking up and down the beach handing out boots and respirators to cleanup workers from the Transportation Ministry and the Emergency Situations Ministry,” he said. “They’re trying to play some kind of coordinator role, when what’s needed are boons and skimmers to localize the slick and divers to put seals on the ruptured tanks.”

State-controlled television network Channel One said Saturday that the accident was worse than originally thought, with several local residents reporting headaches and respiratory problems.

The network also said the captain of the Cristoforo Colombo disobeyed an order from maritime authorities in Kholmsk, where the ship was docked, to sail into open waters to avoid being tossed against the rocks.

Environmentalist groups have long criticized Sakhalin Energy for its plans to build a seabed pipeline, two offshore platforms and a liquefied natural gas plant in the pristine region. Their calls for Shell to do more to protect a group of rare gray whales that feed in the area, where the platforms are being built, forced the company to push its schedule back a year while it conducts studies to assess the effects the project will have on whale behavior.

The World Wildlife Fund has said that one of the greatest risks during the early stages of a project the size of Sakhalin-2 comes from subcontractors who are not held to the same strict standards as lead operators such as Shell.

“The company cannot guarantee that all the necessary precautions will be taken during the construction of the pipeline due to the high number of subcontractors it has hired to do the work,” the WWF’s Russian marine project coordinator, Vasily Spridonov, has said.

Chernyakhovsky said Sakhalin energy has too many subcontractors to name.

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