U.S. Coast Guard and police boats cleared a way through protesters in kayaks at a Seattle-area port on Tuesday so a drilling ship could head for the Arctic on behalf of Royal Dutch Shell.
The Noble Discover is the second drilling ship Shell has sent to the area in recent days.
The activists, who have staged frequent demonstrations during the past two months against Royal Dutch Shell’s oil exploration in the Chukchi Sea off mainland Alaska, had taken to the waters just beyond the Port of Everett north of Seattle where the oil rig launched for sea.
The activists had entered the safety zone around the Noble Discover and were intercepted by small boats of the U.S. Coast Guard and local police, who took the water-borne demonstrators to shore, said Coast Guard spokesman Chief Petty Officer David Mosley.
No one was arrested but the Coast Guard and police team issued five citations to demonstrators, he said.
Following its pre-dawn departure, the Nobel Discover was sailing on toward international waters with no blockade in its path, Mosley said.
Shell could begin drilling for oil in the Arctic off Alaska as early as the third week in July, when it expects sea ice to begin clearing.
The first drilling rig arrived in Dutch Harbor off mainland Alaska on Saturday morning. Shell plans to drill through late September.
The company was given conditional approval by the U.S. Department of the Interior in May to return to the Arctic for the first time since its mishap-plagued 2012 drilling season.
Protesters around Washington have demonstrated against Shell’s intention to drill for fossil fuel in the Arctic, one of the most environmentally sensitive regions in the world, saying a spill would be destructive to the ecosystem and extremely hard to clean up.
Shell maintains that it has a robust safety and clean-up plan should a spill occur.