Friends of the Earth: Clean Up Sakhalin Oil Spill, Not Your Image, Campaigners tell Shell: “The spill stretched along five kilometres of coast and left local residents ill. Environmentalists had previously criticised Shell for not having an effective spill response plan and were furious when their fears proved well founded.“ (ShellNews.net)
Posted 7 Oct 2004
Environmental groups expressed outrage today as oil giant Shell moved to appoint a "crisis management" public relations officer for its troubled multi-billion dollar Sakhalin project in Russia's Far East.
Shell has posted the recruitment ad just three weeks after one of its dredging vessels ran aground causing a Category 2 oil spill at Kholmsk on Sakhalin. The spill stretched along five kilometres of coast and left local residents ill. Environmentalists had previously criticised Shell for not having an effective spill response plan and were furious when their fears proved well founded.
All of Shell's spill response equipment was stored at the opposite end of Sakhalin Island, several hundred kilometres away. Spill specialists did not examine the spill until nine hours after the accident, and actual clean-up efforts began 18 hours after the spill. It was 48 hours before booms were in place to contain the spill - something which should have happened within a few hours .
The "Crisis Management Specialist" role, within the External Affairs department, requires communications skills, but no specific technical understanding of oil industry emergency procedures . An increasingly common role within the international public relations industry, crisis management involves coordinating communications during a crisis such as an oil spill to protect the reputation of the company responsible for the incident.
Shell and its project partners are seeking taxpayer funding from international public lenders to develop its operations on Sakhalin, including the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD).
Dmitry Lisitsyn, of Sakhalin Environment Watch, said:
"The people of Sakhalin Island want oil operations to be made safe - not just someone to tell them they are safe. Shell has repeatedly promised that this project would be carried out to the highest environmental standards, promises which are now looking quite thin. Shell must clean up its act, not its image."
Doug Norlen, of Pacific Environment, added:
"Adding another layer of communications is typical of Shell's approach to environmental issues. Shell has created a beautifully crafted Potemkin village of environmental responsibility: it looks great, but there's nothing of substance behind it. It is very telling that we get an oil spill spin doctor before we get an oil spill response plan".
Petr Hlobil, of CEE Bankwatch Network, said:
"The EBRD has already expressed concerns about Shell's implementation of the Sakhalin project. It is absolutely vital that before any funding decisions take place the Bank maintains a keen eye on Shell's spin, not only on this oil spill response sticking plaster, but on other aspects such as the currently inadequate social impact provisions which offer little hope to the Sakhalin fishing industry, a crucial sector of the local economy."