A woman who had been hanging off the anchor chain of an Arctic oil-drilling support ship since Friday night ended her protest north of Seattle on Monday.
The US coast guard said student activist Chiara D’Angelo requested assistance getting down from her perch on the Arctic Challenger in the Bellingham harbour at around 9.30am.
Spokeswoman Katelyn Shearer said D’Angelo was checked for hypothermia and then released.
D’Angelo spent the weekend attached to the ship in an environmental protest against Royal Dutch Shell’s plans to drill for oil off north-western Alaska. The Arctic Challenger is part of a fleet the company expects to use to conduct exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea.
The plans have drawn large protests in Seattle, where a massive, floating drill rig is being prepared for the excursion.
A second protester, Matt Fuller, joined D’Angelo from Saturday morning until Sunday. He requested help getting down at about 4.30am, and the coast guard said it obliged.
In a telephone interview given while still attached to the chain, Fuller called Shell’s plans “an affront to our planet and to our society and especially to the indigenous populations up in Alaska who rely on the fish for their subsistence and economic wellbeing”. He said he was motivated to protest by frustration with the administration of President Barack Obama, which has given a tentative green light to the project after finding that Shell had developed strong safeguards to protect against an oil spill.
Fuller said he did not have a hammock to rest in, but only a climbing harness and a less-than-stable piece of wood jammed into the anchor chain.
“It’s extraordinarily uncomfortable, sitting and standing on a two-by-four attached to a cold, giant anchor chain,” he said.
The coast guard brought Fuller to Coast Guard Station Bellingham, where he was met by medical staff and local police. He was found to be in good condition, and he was not arrested, though Bellingham police warned him not to trespass.
Shell said the illegal stunt would not delay its plans.
“We respect the rights of individuals to express their views related to our Arctic programme, so long as they do so safely and lawfully,” spokesman Curtis Smith said.
“It’s unfortunate these few chose to compromise their safety and the safety of others while trespassing on private property. We appreciate the professionalism of the US coast guard and local law enforcement in de-escalating this incident – especially on a holiday weekend when it’s probable their resources are in high demand.”
The coast guard said it has cited four owners or operators of protest vessels for violation of a 100-yard safety zone around the Arctic Challenger, and it blocked the voyages of two vessels determined to not have had the required safety gear. The agency also detained a small inflatable raft because of a lack of proof of ownership.
“The coast guard has a duty to promote the safety of life at sea, which includes the encouragement of safe navigation in our ports and waterways by all waterway users,” Lieutenant Commander Justin Noggle, chief of enforcement at coast guard sector Puget Sound, said in a news release on Sunday.
“The coast guard respects the first amendment rights of people to safely and lawfully assemble on the water. To that end, we will enforce those laws and regulations necessary to ensure the safety of the maritime public.”
The Arctic Challenger is a converted barge that is designed to launch containment equipment in the event of a spill. Protesters have questioned its ability to be effective in the harsh Arctic climate.
Obama said this month that he is committed to reducing carbon emissions. But he said consumers will still need fossil fuels during a transition to other energy sources, and he would rather rely on oil and gas extracted in the US under federal regulations than from foreign sources.
Earlier this month, hundreds of activists in kayaks swarmed Elliott Bay in Seattle to protest against Shell’s plans.