The sinister oil drilling ship the Noble Discoverer spotted in Tasman Bay

Anadarko, Petrobras, Greywolf – the names are colourful and somehow symbolic. Only a week after hundreds of people were showing their protest by holding hands on beaches in Nelson, Motueka and Golden Bay an impressive armada of oil vessels appeared in Tasman Bay – a coincidence? They were seeking shelter from heavy storms off the Taranaki Coast  in the much calmer waters in the Tasman Bay – an area the mentioned companies are desperate to explore. They have to walk carefully not to stir up the Greenies and nature lovers and other activists. One year after the disastrous accident on the Deepwater Hori in the Gulf of Mexico oil companies around the world happily continue to explore new terrains. It took BP several months to close the leakage, and more than a year later the company is still trying to clean up the mess in the Mississippi Delta. The beaches are heavily polluted, fisheries severely affected – but BP & Co are allowed to continue their business in the Gulf and elsewhere. Greenpeace experts and independent scientists warn that there is no “emergency plan” that can prevent the dramatic consequences of future accidents.

To explain this appearance of the petroleum drilling ship the Noble Discoverer, Fairfax Media reported in May that the ship, which had been drilling the Ruru exploration well off the South Taranaki coast for operator Shell Todd Oil Services, had its mooring system and drilling equipment damaged when anchor lines snapped in a storm.

The company said that as a precautionary measure the crew disconnected the vessel from the wellhead before the storm hit, and closed in the well. When some of the eight anchor lines holding the vessel failed the remaining lines were disconnected and it was moved into deeper waters to ride out the storm.

Noble Discoverer was built in 1966 and was originally a bulk carrier called the Matsuhiro Maru. In 1976 it was converted for the energy exploration operations and renamed Frontier Discoverer. The name was changed again to Noble Discoverer last year when drilling company Frontier Drilling merged with fellow driller Noble Corporation.