Community members far and wide will be gathering along the coastlines of South Africa this Sunday. All in order to protest against Shell’s destructive activities along the Wild Coast. Alongside this, hundreds of thousands of members of the public have signed petitions. And associations such as the Border Deep Sea Angling Association (BDSAA), Kei Mouth ski boat club and Natural Justice and Greenpeace Africa have relayed letters of outrage to various departments of the South African government. Yet still, on Monday a Shell spokesperson announced that “We plan to go ahead with the survey, because we have met all our legal obligations for the survey”.
What is Shell Actually Doing
The Royal Dutch Shell Company scheduled CGG seismic surveys along the wild coast of South Africa. The purpose of which is to search for more fuel sources. This is despite the fact that a Dutch court ruling has ordered Shell to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 47% within this decade. And Shell cannot use even the already discovered fuel reserves without causing catastrophic climate change
These seismic surveys involve firing harmfully loud shockwave pulses through almost 3km of water and about 55km into the seabed. The project that was due to begin on Wednesday 1st December aims to cover an area of about 6 000km2. Located between Port St Johns and Morgans Bay and will be 20km offshore. Unfortunately, this project is only one of several planned offshore explorations.
Late at night on the 30th November Shell filed a 56-page response. Shell complains that the protests and action against their wild coast activities are unfair. Some of the points stated are:
- The rapid and overwhelming recent action taken by applicants “is nothing short of abusive”.
- They state that there “is no evidence that sound from properly mitigated seismic surveys has had any significant impact on marine populations”.
- Shell claims that it is not true that extremely loud underwater sounds are created by the sound waves.
- And their lawyers state that millions of dollars have already been spent on the project over the past several years. Having “been labouring under the impression that it has a valid authorisation and could proceed to arrange the seismic survey”.
How Did They Get Permission in the First Place?
The problem is that the government granted permission way back in 2014. A mere few months before they implemented the One Environmental System. Cullinan & Associates is the law firm behind the last-minute legal challenge. And they state the decision to allow these seismic activities amounts to “unjust administrative action”. Because the government has since replaced the process with one that has stronger environmental protections.
A recent petition to withdraw the approval reached over 341 000 signatures by Monday 29 November. The applicants addressed the petition to the Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment Minister Barbara Creecy. As well as the Mineral Resources and Energy Minister, Gwede Mantashe. The department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment has distanced themselves, stating that they were not been involved in the decision-making process. And the Mineral Resources and Energy Minister has declined to comment on the matter.
The protests and call for action against Shell’s wild coast activities are understandable. The entire world is making an effort to move towards green and more sustainable energy. Yet our government sits back and not only allows but also agrees to go ahead with this potential environmental attack.
BDSAA Vice-Chair, John Luef, states “The SA government and Minister Creecy are doing a 180 [degree turn] on what they have publicly stated is their mandate to facilitate an economic growth path that is equitable, inclusive, sustainable and environmentally sound. A path that is in line with our Constitution, promotes sustainable development and the right of all of us to enjoy an environment that is not harmful to our health or wellbeing. Proof that our sea creatures and environment will not be affected is what we want”. Furthermore, Luef claims “We will not take this lying down and we will do all in our power to put a stop to it.”
The Current Situation
Shell’s survey vessel, the Amazon Warrior, left Cape Town earlier this week and is now in Port Alfred accompanied by a support vessel, the Ocean Fortune, and a guard vessel, the Astra G. Spotted yesterday morning in the general vicinity. However, no one can confirm if the mission has begun.
In light of public protests and after receiving the final desperate attempts to block Shell’s wild coast project, a council was called. It took place on the 1st of December and applicants reiterated the importance of preventing the seismic survey. The court will make an informed decision once all the facts are laid out. They plan to reach a verdict sometime on Friday the 2nd of December.
Happy Khambule, a senior climate campaigner for Greenpeace Africa, states it perfectly, “South Africa’s problems do not require violent extraction nor destruction of the environment and community livelihoods. The best and most immediate solution is a just transition to renewable energy, ensuring safe and decent jobs, and energy access for all,”.
“Shell is a climate criminal, destroying people’s lives and the planet for profit.”