A fleet of vessels and people are about to head north to Alaska to take part in Shell’s historic planned offshore Arctic oil drilling project.
This could be one of the busiest summers in recent history for the people of the North Slope, as Shell is very close to its goal of exploring for oil in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.
If you know where to look, there are definite signs that something big is on the way.
Environmental groups are stepping up their game, so too is the U.S. Coast Guard.
Seven months ago the Aiviq, Shell’s newest Arctic ice breaker, was in pieces at a Louisiana shipyard.
Today it’s finished and is about to join a fleet of other drilling vessels in Seattle sometime in June.
From there, they’ll journey to the Arctic and be in place for drilling to start in July, said Shell Alaska Vice President Pete Slaiby.
“People are beginning to see more and more folks showing up, beginning to get the logistics ready, oil spill response equipment in place,” he said.
Slaiby said the company is still in the process of hiring all the help it needs for just a few months of drilling. He expects to employ about a thousand people this summer.
“We're kind of bursting at the seams,” Slaiby said.
The U.S. Coast Guard also plans to boost its presence in the Arctic.
There will be two cutters and a buoy tender ship patrolling the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas during open water season, said Kip Wadlow, Coast Guard spokesman.
Its in response to an expected increase in Arctic shipping traffic, and also worldwide interest in Shell's plans.
Shell has a restraining order against the environmental group Greenpeace, whose activists boarded Shell vessels twice in recent weeks to protest the oil company’s Arctic drilling.
Greenpeace says while the occupations have certainly raised awareness of its anti-offshore drilling message, they're not planning any more for Alaska.
They say they hope ongoing legal challenges will prove more effective at stopping Shell.
“We've been working on issues like this for a long time and will continue to do so,” said Greenpeace spokesman Dan Howellf.
Shell still needs an air permit for one of its drilling rigs and it needs federal regulators to approve an oil spill response plan before it can proceed with its full exploration proposal.