Kulluk Hearing Wraps With Testimony From Tug Captain
Thursday afternoon, Coast Guard marine casualty investigator Keith Fawcett questioned Captain Jon Skoglund, the master of the tugboat Aiviq, which had been towing the drill rig.
[Fawcett] “What’s your understanding of your responsibility for the vessel that you are towing, in this case, the Kulluk.”
[Skoglund] “Bottom line is I’ve always been taught as far as the Coast Guard is concerned, I’m responsible for my vessel and the vessel I am connected to while under tow. I’m sure everyone has read the tow plan, and the tow plan is written differently, the towmaster is responsible in the tow plan as I read it.”
[Fawcett] “And how can that be. You are actually doing the towing operation, and the towmaster is standing on a vessel that has no propulsion system.”
[Skoglund] “By the plan, I take orders from the towmaster, sir.”
Skoglund told investigators that the tow plan for the Kulluk required the ship to stay within 200 miles of land because that is the range of Coast Guard search and rescue helicopters. At one point, Skoglund worried about incoming rough weather and requested a change of course, but was refused permission from his superiors. Skoglund said he had wanted to change to the Circle route which would bring them to Seattle faster, but his plan was denied.
Skoglund told the panel that after the Kulluk broke free of the Aiviq, a number of ships responded to the emergency. Eventually two tugs got emergency lines on the Kulluk, but it was difficult to pinpoint who exactly was in charge of the task. He said, as the weather worsened, the tugs started losing ground
[Skoglund] “The storm was definitely starting to increase. I believe the winds were picking up to in excess of 40, and we were seeing seas of 25 to 30 [feet]“
[Fawcett] “And what was happening to the drift, I use the word drift just to simplify it, but you had two vessels towing the Kulluk. Where was the Kulluk actually going?”
[Skoglund] “We were losing ground. It was hauling us backwards”
[Fawcett] “And it was hauling you backwards to where?”
[Skoglund] “Toward land, towards the islands.”
Eventually, the Kulluck broke away again and ran aground near Kodiak.