LONG BEACH — Royal Dutch Shell’s MSV Fennica icebreaker vessel is nearing the mouth of the Columbia River early Friday afternoon.

The vessel, which suffered a 39-inch gash in its hull and is bound for a Portland shipyard for repairs, is expected to be met by protesters concerned about Shell’s exploration of the high Arctic for oil and gas.

“The ship was on its way to support Shell’s drilling fleet as the company commences putting in two exploratory wells 70 miles off the coast of Alaska. The Chukchi Sea’s icy waters make it far too dangerous to drill without icebreaker ships in support,” according to Sightline, an online news source.

Portland “is expected to be the new staging ground for Shell’s latest presence in the Northwest,” Sightline reports. “A flotilla of ‘kayaktivists’ are preparing for a confrontation, hoping to prevent the ship from returning to Alaska where it would enable further oil exploration. At a rally last Saturday, protesters in Portland promised to ‘shut the gates of Shell.’ The event even featured a brief speech from Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley who recently introduced a bill that would ban Arctic oil drilling completely.”

It is unknown whether the vessel faces protests as it passes upriver past Astoria at approximately 5 to 7 p.m.

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