The U.S. Coast Guard yesterday released its report on Royal Dutch Shell’s arctic drilling efforts in 2012, which led to the grounding of the mobile drilling rig Kulluk on New Year’s Eve.
The 152-page report was released 10-months after a hearing in Anchorage in the aftermath of the grounding. The investigation was done by Commander Joshua McTaggart of the Coast Guard’s national investigations center.
The report states that in an effort to avoid state property taxes, Shell did indeed set sail from Dutch Harbor in late December so to be out of Alaska waters on January 1st, when the taxes would have been levied. The report also criticizes Shell for “numerous deficiencies” in planning the voyage, having an inadequate towing plan, and the “questionable decision” to sail from Dutch Harbor to Seattle in December in the face of worsening weather.
The critical report did not erode arctic drilling support among Alaska’s U.S. senators Mark Begich and Lisa Murkowski.
In a written statement Begich said he remains a “strong supporter” of reasonable arctic resource development. He said the Coast Guard report and recommendations gives him greater confidence about resource extraction in the arctic.
Murkowski agreed that the recommendations from the Coast Guard will improve the safety of maritime activities during energy resource development in the arctic.
Environmental watchdogs were not as upbeat. Continue reading
Coast Guard Alaska returns to the Weather Channel on July 17
The premier of the third season of Coast Guard Alaska on the Weather Channel is coming up in two weeks. The first episode will focus on the travails of the Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig, Kulluk as it loses its tow and eventually goes aground on Sitkalidak Island, southeast of Kodiak.
The show’s preview on the Weather Channel’s website includes night vision video of the first two attempts by Air Station Kodiak helicopters to hoist the Kulluk crewmen from the drifting, pitching and rolling conical drilling unit on New Year’s Eve.
Coast Guard Alaska is a production by NBC weatherman Al Roker’s production company, and is largely based out of Kodiak, where it follows rescue crews while on missions and at home. Other episodes have been filmed out of Air Station Sitka. Coast Guard Alaska will debut on July 17th.
The Coast Guard’s formal hearing into what led to the Royal Shell Oil drilling unit Kulluk to go aground on Sitkalidak Island New Year’s Eve has concluded. The nine-day public hearing was held at the Loussac Library in Anchorage.
Witnesses who testified came from the Coast Guard, Shell, Noble Drilling, GL Noble Denton, Offshore Rig Mover’s International, Crowley, Edison Chouest Offshore and Delmar Systems.
The investigating officer, Commander Joshua McTaggart, is scheduled to submit a written report of the investigation, which will include findings of facts, conclusions and recommendations, to Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo in early July, but he can ask for extra time as needed.
Ostebo will use the findings and recommendations to determine whether additional measures are required to prevent similar incidents and what, if any, actions need to be taken to promote safety of life and property at sea.
The Coast Guard hopes to save lives and protect the environment by identifying what went wrong and how it can be avoided in the future, as Shell and potentially other oil companies continue to explore for oil in the Arctic Ocean.
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground on the southeast shore of Sitkalidak Island about 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, in 40 mph winds and 20-foot seas Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. The Kulluk grounded following many efforts by tug and Coast Guard crews to tow the vessel to a safe harbor when it was beset by winter storm weather during a tow from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to Everett, Wash. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
The Coast Guard will launch an investigative hearing into the grounding of the Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig Kulluk on Monday. A formal “marine casualty investigation” is conducted following any event affecting the seaworthiness of a vessel. The Kulluk, known as a “conical drilling unit,” went aground in heavy seas New Year’s Eve on Sitkalidak Island after breaking several tow lines.
Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo, commander of the Coast Guard 17th District, ordered the formal marine casualty investigation to examine the facts, circumstances, and factors involved in the Kulluk grounding. The hearing will convene Monday at noon in Anchorage’s Loussac Library.
Commander Joshua McTaggart from the Coast Guard Investigations National Center of Expertise is conducting the investigation with the assistance of technical advisors from Coast Guard Sector Anchorage and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. Representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board are also participating.
Witnesses from Shell Oil, its contractors, the Coast Guard, and other organizations will be called to testify about the facts and circumstance surrounding the grounding of the Kulluk.
Once the investigation is completed, McTaggart will submit a written report, which will include findings and recommendations. Then, Ostebo will determine whether additional measures are required to prevent such marine casualties in the future, and what actions need to be taken to promote safety of life and property.
The Kulluk is now in Asia, being refit and undergoing repairs, and Shell has scrapped its plans to explore for oil in the Arctic Ocean for this year.
The Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig Kulluk being loaded aboard the heavy lift vessel Xiang Rui Kou last week in Unalaska. Jim Paulin photo
The trip to Asia for the Royal Dutch Shell floating drill rig Kulluk has been delayed. The Kulluk and the Xiang Rui Kou heavy lift vessel carrying it, have left their anchorage in Unalaska — but the ships aren’t on their way yet.
The vessels have been moved to Broad Bay, just outside of town, says Coast Guard Lt. Jim Fothergill. They’ll stay there until Friday, when they’re scheduled to leave for Singapore. Shell has pushed back the departure twice now. Fothergill says he doesn’t know the reason for the delays, and a Shell spokesman did not return requests for information.
Final preparations are being made to transfer Shell Oil’s floating drill rig Kulluk to Asia.
Early yesterday morning, three tugboats maneuvered the Shell rig out of its berth in Unalaska and onto the deck of the partially submerged Xiang Rui Kou [shee-ONG roo-AY KOO] heavy lift vessel.
Before the operation started, marine pilot Carter Whalen said the Kulluk would be a challenge to move because of its domed shape.
“With three different tugs pulling on it with lines, it has a tendency to spin one way or the other. And once it starts spinning, it’s hard to stop it from spinning. It slides transversely through the water,” he said. “It’s kind of a balancing act, rather than having to use a lot of power. It’s kind of a finesse.”
When reached yesterday aboard the Kulluk, Whalen said the tow went smoothly. Engineers ensured that the rig was properly positioned on the Xiang Rui Kou. Then, the heavy lift ship emptied its ballast tanks and floated its deck above the surface, taking the oil rig with it.
“Then there will be a four or five day process, once she’s floated, where they will secure and weld and reinforce the Kulluk into position before they cross the Pacific.”
The ships are expected to leave Unalaska toward the end of the week. They’re bound for Asia, where the Kulluk will undergo repairs for damage from when the rig grounded near Kodiak on New Years Eve.
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Tagged Kulluk, Shell Oil