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US Coast Guard: Icebreaker Faced Obstruction, but Kayakers Cooperated

July 31, 2015

A standoff continued Thursday on the Willamette River between environmental group protesters and a multinational energy company in Portland. Protesters suspended from the St. Johns Bridge and in kayaks on the water essentially blocked the Shell icebreaker, Fennica, from leaving for oil exploration in the Arctic.

The Fennica moved north along the river with the U.S. Coast Guard enforcing a safety zone, petty officer George Degener said.  

"Upon the vessel reaching the St. Johns Bridge, there was obstruction in its way," Degener said. "Then the vessel did turn around and return to the Vigor Shipyard in Portland."

Degener said the Coast Guard's primary concern is the safety of boaters, including the protesting kayakers on the water. Degener said at one point, kayakers came within the safety zone around the Fennica.

"There were individuals aboard paddlecraft who were incurring inside the established safety zone, and our Coast Guard law enforcement officers on scene were able to articulate to them that they needed to maintain a safe distance from the vessel," Degener said. "Those individuals were able to back out of the zone, and maintain their safe distance."

There were also 13 protesters on platforms, suspended below the bridge.

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Kayakers raised their paddles in protest of Shell's Arctic oil drilling efforts in front of the Fennica during a protest in Portland.

Christina Belasco