Shell Drill Rig Runs Aground

January 1, 2013 UPDATE: This information is from the Unified Command for the Kulluk.

The Kulluk grounded on the southeast shoreline of Sitkalidak Island (between the north edge of Ocean Bay and Partition Cove) at approximately 9 p.m. on December 31, 2012.  The shoreline of Partition Cove is primarily comprised of mixed sand and gravel beaches. Severe weather conditions continue to impact operations. The condition of the Kulluk has not been confirmed. The Coast Guard conducted a nighttime overflight last evening (Monday) and additional assessments are planned for today.


123112 5 PM- The Coast Guard is still assisting the crew of Shell’s drill rig Kulluk. Shell spokesman Curtis Smith is at the Unified Command Center where the Coast Guard, Shell and state officials are monitoring the situation. Smith says currently the rig is stable.

“We have two secure tow lines to the Kulluk. One from the tugboat Alert and one from the Aiviq. That’s obviously extremely welcome news given the difficulty we were having in securing this rig in pretty severe weather conditions,” Smith said.

The vessels are about 20 miles south of Kodiak Island.

The vessels have had trouble since last week when the Aiviq, the vessel towing the Kulluk had engine failure. The situation was complicated by severe weather and a tow line that snapped, setting the massive drill rig adrift.

The Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley is on scene along with Shell’s vessel the Nanuq. Smith says the Guardsman has gone north to check on approaching weather conditions as well as looking for a sheltered place to take the Kulluk. Smith says the weather had quieted but is now picking up again.

“Tonight another portion of this storm is expected in that region, so possibly 20 to 30 foot swells and winds potentially over 60 miles per hour so very, very severe,” Smith said.

The crew of the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley returned to the Kulluk’s location Sunday evening, after repairing their fouled port propeller in Kodiak, and relieved the crew of the Coast Guard Cutter SPAR as on scene commander.

Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews from Air Station Kodiak are preparing to deploy several technicians aboard the Kulluk. The technicians will inspect the current condition of the towlines on the drilling unit.

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for Alaska Public Media. She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for nearly 30 years. Radio brought her to Alaska, where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting before accepting a reporting/host position with APRN in 2003. APRN merged with Alaska Public Media a year later. Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters.