The Amazon Warrior has left South Africa and is heading towards Las Palmas, in what is seen as a victory for local protests over Shell’s seismic plans.
Shearwater Geo owns the ship. In October 2021, the company said it had won a major 3D seismic exploration project in South Africa. The plan was to acquire just over 6,000 square km of data, in a project that would last about four weeks.
However, on December 28, a South African court ordered Shell to pause its work. A number of local interests and NGOs had challenged the authority under which Shell was working in the area.
Judge Gerald Bloem agreed with an interim interdict. Shell had failed to carry out required local consultations and there were concerns over the impact on marine life, he said.
Shell defended the survey but said it would pause the work, while it reviewed the order. A representative noted South Africa’s high reliance on energy imports and the ways in which a discovery of local resources would contribute to energy security.
Standing down the Amazon Warrior confirms the judicial order will not be reversed in the short term.
On the clock
Shell, and its partner Impact Africa, are now racing against the clock. The two have until May of this year to carry out seismic work. Otherwise, they risk losing the licence on Algoa and Transkei. The blocks are in the South Outeniqua Basin, close to where TotalEnergies has drilled its Brulpadda and Luiperd discoveries.
Bloem noted the looming end of the licence but said this was not sufficient to allow work to go ahead.
The South African Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) has spoken in support of Shell’s plans in the past. Thus, there may be some scope for an extension.
Whether Shell will have more luck the second time round with its seismic plans remains to be seen, though.