Shell drill ship runs aground on island off Alaska
AP Photo: U.S Coast Guard, Chris Usher. Shell rig runs aground off Alaska: The mobile drilling unit Kulluk 116 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Dec. 30, 2012.
The Coast Guard will attempt a salvage operation and possible spill response.
ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Royal Dutch Shell PLC's foray into Arctic offshore drilling has suffered a serious setback after one of its two Alaskan drilling rigs ran aground off a small island while trying to escape a fierce storm.
The Kulluk drilling ship grounded Monday night on rocks off the southeast side of Sitkalidak, an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Alaska, according to officials at a command center run by the U.S. Coast Guard, Shell and Alaskan state emergency workers.
The Kulluk was being towed 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 a North Pacific storm that included winds near 70 mph and ocean swells to 35 feet.
About 4:15 p.m., the drill ship separated from the Aiviq about 10 to 15 miles offshore and grounding was inevitable, Coast Guard Cmdr. Shane Montoya told reporters.
"Once the Aiviq lost its tow, we knew the Alert could not manage the Kulluk on its own as far as towing, and that's when we started planning for the grounding," he said.
The command center instructed the nine tug crew members to guide the drill ship to a place where it would cause the least environmental damage. The tug cut the unmanned ship loose at 8:15 p.m. and it grounded at 9 p.m. near the north tip of Ocean Bay on Sitkalidak Island.
An overnight Coast Guard flight over the rig found no signs of a fuel spill.
But officials at a unified command center run by the Coast Guard, Royal Dutch Shell PLC, state responders and others say they'll have to wait until daylight to know for sure what environmental impact the grounding might have caused.
Spokeswoman Darci Sinclair says the North Pacific storm that has caused problems for Shell's efforts to move the drill into place near Kodiak Island was expected to continue Tuesday, at a slightly milder intensity. The storm has included winds near 70 mph and swells to 35 feet.
Attached to a drilling prospect, the Kulluk is designed to handle waves 18 feet high. When disconnected from a well, it's designed to handle seas to 40 feet high.
It is only a matter of time until we destroy the Artic with drilling. And it will not be that much time.
Bushbama President Obama could have stopped this from happening if only he did not truly serve the Masters rather than the People and Earth.
Wake Up, People. It is a New Year, but nothing is changed. The real "Cliff" is coming.