The Kulluk, Shell’s floating drilling platform, is back under tow, about 19 miles southeast of Kodiak Island, the unified command for an emergency involving the vessel has announced. The emergency began early Friday morning when during stormy conditions about 50 miles south of Kodiak the engines failed on the Aiviq, the anchor handling vessel towing the Kulluk from Dutch Harbor to the U.S. West Coast. The U.S. Coast Guard went to the assistance of the vessels.
Shell deployed the Guardsman, a support vessel, and the Nanuq, the company’s Arctic oil spill response vessel, to the scene. The company also chartered the Alert, a tug based in Prince William Sound.
With assistance from the Coast Guard, the Aiviq’s engines were back in operation on Saturday. And by Saturday evening the Aiviq and the Nanuq had towlines attached to the Kulluk. Meantime, following a request from Shell, the Coast Guard had evacuated the Kulluk’s crew.
By late Sunday afternoon, the towlines connecting the Aiviq and the Nanuq to the Kulluk had separated, but the tug Alert had arrived on scene to provide assistance. And the Alert was eventually able to secure a line to the drilling platform.
“At approximately 12:45 am, Monday, Dec. 31, the Alert was able to secure the 400-foot line that was previously the tow line used by the Aiviq,” the unified command announced at 6 a.m. this morning. “The Alert successfully added tension to the line to test its ability to hold. Later in the morning, the Aiviq also restored its connection to the Kulluk.”
Shell spokesman Curtis Smith told Petroleum News at 9:30 this morning that the unified command is still considering options for further securing the Kulluk. Those options include the possibility of using additional tow lines and potentially moving the vessel to a safe harbor to the north, Smith said. Currently the severe weather in the area of the incident has diminished, but another storm is in the forecast, he said.
See story in Jan. 6 issue, available online at 11 a.m., Friday, Jan. 4, at www.PetroleumNews.com