I can see the Polar Pioneer from the bridge – one of two rigs Shell has mobilised to cross the Pacific and head for the Arctic.
It’s been about three weeks since we last saw the Noble Discoverer, the other rig involved with Shells drilling programme in the Arctic. That was off the coast of Brunei. We know they’re heading for Hawaii en route to Seattle. To get there they’ll most likely take a Great Circle route.
This means they’ll head north after rounding the southern tip of the Philippines and take a course in the shape of an arc. It cuts down the distance they need to travel. The Noble Discoverer is old, it’s older than me and I was born in the sixties. It’s also slow and extremely vulnerable to bad weather on transits like this. These vessels like to avoid bad weather when they can, in fact they’ll do anything they can to keep out of the way of it.
This is where it gets sticky. Typhoon Maysak formed a few days ago, near the Marshall Islands, and its track has taken it in the direction of the Discoverer. Not nice for such an old vessel, a vessel which started life as a log carrier, not even a drill ship.
It’s very unusual for Typhoons to be manifesting with the frequency and intensity that they have this year in this area. The season should be busy from May to November normally, not now. I’m sure the Discoverer planned their journey around this belief. The irony isn’t lost. Have they run smack, bang into an impact of climate change? More intense, extreme weather events like this?
Countries like the Philippines and Pacific Island Nations are in the front line of these events. They’ve been getting hammered more and more in recent years. Maysak may touch down in the Philippines in a couple of days and our thoughts are with anyone that might be in its path.
And the Noble Discoverer? Well what’s worse for them is that they’ll likely need to go north to avoid Maysak, unlike the Philippines they can get out of the way….but the weather’s not looking too good up there either.
They’re sending this thing to the Arctic? What a bunch of jokers.
Rob Taylor is the Logistics, Projects and Actions Manager on board the Esperanza.
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