Nica Richards
Deputy online news editor
1 minute read
3 Dec 2021
9:55 am

Urgent interdict against Shell’s seismic survey dismissed

Nica Richards

Acting Judge Avinash Govindjee said the arguments presented by the applicants were 'speculative', and ruled in favour of Shell.

A protest outside Shell's offices in Bryanston on 1 December 2021 by Extinction Rebellion against the companies seismic survey operations along the wild coast of South Africa. Picture: Neil McCartney

The urgent interdict against Shell brought forward by four applicants in the Grahamstown High Court has been dismissed with costs. 

Acting Judge Avinash Govindjee ruled on Friday that the arguments presented by Natural Justice, Greenpeace Africa, Border Deep Sea Angling Association and Kei Mouth Ski Boat Club against Shell and Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy Gwede Mantashe were not enough to convince him that the planned 3D seismic survey should not take place. 

Advocate Willie Duminy argued on Wednesday in the virtual hearing that the applicants wished to halt the survey from taking place in December, due to humpback whales returning from migration being potentially impacted by the sounds emitting from the vessels.

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Duminy said on Wednesday more studies needed to be conducted regarding the effects of seismic blasts on animals, fauna, flora, humans and coastal communities, but that harm was still admitted in mitigation plans. 

However, Govindjee said this argument was “speculative at best”, and that the balance of convenience favoured Shell. 

This, he said, was because granting the interdict would mean Shell would miss the limited window available in completing its seismic survey, would be in breach of its contractual obligations and would have incurred millions of dollars in preparation for the survey. 

Although weighing the financial consequences of Shell against potential environmental harm was an “invidious task”, the interdict could not be granted based on a worst-case scenario speculation.