Shell execs see icebreaker being built in Larose

LAROSE, La. — Shell Oil executives came to Larose for a look at their unfinished 360-foot icebreaker — the biggest and one of the most advanced ever built by Edison Chouest Offshore.

Shell awarded the contract for the arctic supply vessel in 2009, in anticipation of recently won permits to drill in the Beaufort Sea off the Alaskan coast. It’s designed to stabilize oil rigs and protect them from ice in rough Arctic waters.

“You work on it and you hear about it, but eventually you just want to come down and kick the iron,” Pete Slaiby, vice president of Shell Alaska, told The Courier on Friday during his first visit to the ship. The hull towered more than 30 feet above him at Chouest’s Shipyard North American facilities in Larose.

Shell is waiting to learn if it gets permits to drill in the Chukchi Sea.

“If we can gain some confidence that we can move forward, we’re looking at a second anchor handler, one for Beaufort and one for Chukchi,” he said.

Many local officials say that drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has not returned levels it had before last year’s the Deepwater Horizon spill and subsequent moratorium on offshore drilling.

But Gary Chouest, president and CEO of Edison Chouest Offshore, said Gulf coast industries stand to gain from drilling in the Arctic.

“This contract occurred during a slowdown. It’s allowed us to keep 700 people locally and throughout the U.S. at work,” he said.

It’s the fourth icebreaker to be made by Edison Chouest. One was a cargo ship for Shell. The other two were built for the National Science Foundation.

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