SAKHALIN, Russia/ LONDON, UK - October 6 - 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 Russias 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 kilometers of coast and left local residents ill. Environmentalists had previously criticized Shell for not having an effective spill response plan and were furious when their fears proved well founded.
All of Shells spill response equipment was stored at the opposite end of Sakhalin island, several hundred kilometers away. Spill specialists did not even examine the spill until nine hours after the accident, and actual cleanup efforts began eighteen 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 including the European Bank for Reconstruction & Development (EBRD).
Dmitry Lisitsyn, of Sakhalin Environment Watch, commented, "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, stated, "Adding another layer of spin doctoring is typical of Shells approach to environmental issues. Shell tries to create a beautifully crafted Potemkin village of environmental responsibility: lots of image but little 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's 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."
Notes for editors:
1: see http://www.bankwatch.org/publications/policy_letters/2004/sakhalin-moratoriu m_letter.pdf
2: see http://www.sakhalin-2.com/employment/emp_vacancies_0054.asp