Shell suspends seismic work offshore South Africa after court order

Royal Dutch Shell, the leading British energy company, has reportedly canceled its seismic exploration activities off the eastern coast of South Africa, and has also terminated the contract for survey vessel, Amazon Warrior, after a South African High Court ordered it to halt work over a legal challenge by environmental groups.

A Shell spokesperson claimed that attributing to the unfinished legal hearings regarding the survey and limited weather window for continuing the work, the company has decided to terminate its contract with the survey vessel prematurely, with the contractor’s agreement.

The spokesperson added that the company is looking forward to resolving the outstanding legal case while also contemplating a better way ahead for the license in long term.

South Africa’s Makhanda High Court Judge, Gerald Bloem, had ruled on December 28th that Shell was given the right to explore the waters near the Wild Coast on the basis of a significantly flawed consultation process.

Judge Bloem stated that the company had failed in carrying out local consultations, with these being concerns regarding the activity’s impact on marine life.

Shell had entered a contract with Shearwater Geoservices to charter survey vessel, Amazon Warrior, for a 3D seismic exploration project off South Africa’s east coast.

According to the trade-flow analytics software Platts cFlow, Amazon Warrior had returned to Cape Town, South Africa on January 3rd, after being offshore since late November to start the exploration activity. Now, as of January 5, the vessel is en route Las Palmas, Spain.

Four environmental groups, which included the international organization Greenpeace, went to court on December 1st, demanding Shell to cease its exploration work off the Wild Coast of South Africa as it may cause irreparable harm to the marine life, being the breeding area for whales.

On December 3rd, Judge Avinash Govindjee, at the Makhanda High Court, stated that the claims made by the environmental groups were no more than speculative. The groups, however, appealed the verdict which led to the December 28 ruling in their favor.

Source credit: https://www.spglobal.com/platts/en/market-insights/latest-news/energy-transition/010522-shell-cancels-seismic-work-offshore-south-africa-after-legal-challenge