No fuel sheen, and no sign that ship’s hull is breachedPublished: 1/2/13 @ 12:00
Officials say two aircraft that flew over an oil-drilling ship that went aground off an island in a severe Alaska storm have not seen any signs that the vessel is leaking fuel or that its hull had been breached.
Federal on-scene response coordinator Capt. Paul Mehler said the Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig is aground but appeared to be stable Tuesday.
When the storm eases and weather permits, the plan is to get marine experts onboard the Kulluk to take photos and videos, and then come up with a more complete salvage plan.
The Kulluk is carrying 150,000 gallons of diesel and about 12,000 gallons of lube oil and hydraulic fluid.
The drilling rig was built with a double- sided hull of reinforced steel 3 inches thick.
The drilling rig’s difficulties go back to Thursday when it separated from a towing vessel south of Kodiak Island as it was being towed to Seattle for maintenance. The rig grounded Monday night on a sand and gravel shore off the southeast side of Sitkalidak Island, an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Alaska.
The North Pacific storm that has caused problems for Shell’s efforts to move the drill into place near Kodiak Island was expected to ease a bit Tuesday, said spokeswoman Darci Sinclair.
U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, issued a statement Tuesday about the Kulluk situation. “Oil companies keep saying they can conquer the Arctic, but the Arctic keeps disagreeing with the oil companies,” Markey said. “Drilling expansion could prove disastrous for this sensitive environment.”
The Kulluk was being towed Monday 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 the storm. Sitkalidak is on the southeast side of Kodiak Island.
About 4:15 p.m., the drill ship separated from the Aiviq about 10 to 15 miles off shore and grounding was inevitable, Coast Guard Cmdr. Shane Montoya, the acting federal on-scene coordinator, said.
“Once the Aiviq lost its tow, we ... started planning for the grounding,” he said.
The nine-member tug crew guided the drill ship to a place where it would cause the least environmental damage.