Shell Drilling Ship Runs Aground off Alaska

Ship is carrying 150K gallons of diesel

By Newser Editors and Wire Services

Posted Jan 1, 2013 10:35 AM CST

(Newser) – Royal Dutch Shell's foray into Arctic offshore drilling has suffered a serious setback after one of its two Alaskan drilling rigs ran aground off a small island while trying to escape a fierce storm. The Kulluk drilling ship grounded last night on rocks off the southeast side of Sitkalidak, an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Alaska. The Kulluk was being towed by a 360-foot anchor handler, the Aiviq, and a tugboat, the Alert. The vessels were moving north along Kodiak Island, trying to escape the worst of a North Pacific storm that included winds near 70mph and ocean swells to 35 feet.

About 4:15pm, the drill ship separated from the Aiviq about 10 to 15 miles offshore and grounding was inevitable, a Coast Guard commander told reporters. "Once the Aiviq lost its tow, we knew the Alert could not manage the Kulluk on its own as far as towing, and that's when we started planning for the grounding." The command center instructed the nine tug crew members to guide the drill ship to a place where it would cause the least environmental damage. The Coast Guard planned to fly out early today to plan a salvage operation and possible spill response. The drill ship is carrying 150,000 gallons of diesel and about 12,000 gallons of lube oil and hydraulic fluid.

Shell Oil incident commander Susan Childs, second from right, answers a question about the Monday night grounding of the Shell drill ship Kulluk at a press conference on Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, at the Mariott Hotel in Anchorage, Alaska. Looking on are Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith, standing, Coast Guard...
Shell Oil incident commander Susan Childs, second from right, answers a question about the Monday night grounding of the Shell drill ship Kulluk at a press conference on Monday, Dec. 31, 2012, at the...   (Dan Joling)
In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, the tug Aiviq travels at just under 2 mph with the mobile drilling unit Kulluk in tow 116 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska.
In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, the tug Aiviq travels at just under 2 mph with the mobile drilling unit Kulluk in tow 116 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska.   ((AP Photo/U.S Coast Guard, Chris Usher))
In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, the mobile drilling unit Kulluk is towed by the tugs Aiviq and Nanuq in 29 mph winds and 20-foot seas 116 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska.
In this photo provided by the U.S. Coast Guard, the mobile drilling unit Kulluk is towed by the tugs Aiviq and Nanuq in 29 mph winds and 20-foot seas 116 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska.   ((AP Photo/U.S Coast Guard, Chris Usher))
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