Anchorage, AL – A large Shell drill ship ran aground on rocks off Alaska Monday night after drifting in stormy weather. The Kulluk broke away from its tow lines and was driven to a small island just off Kodiak Island.
The eighteen member crew had already been evacuated by the Coast Guard Saturday around 9 pm due to the risk of storms. The US Coast Guard flew over the ship and found no signs of a fuel spill but said they needed to wait until daylight for further inspection. Shell had been trying to tow the Kulluk with two ships in order to escape the storm. The ship broke its tow lines from one of the two ships that was towing it, and grounding was inevitable due to 60 mile-per-hour winds and 35-foot waves.
According to The Star, Coast Guard Commander Shane Montoya said, “We are now entering into the salvage and possible spill-response phase of this event.”
Susan Childs, emergency incident commander for Shell, said “The unique design of the Kulluk means the diesel fuel tanks are isolated in the center in the vessel and encased in very heavy steel,” according to Yahoo News. She then added, “We hope to ultimately recover the Kulluk with minimal or no damage to the environment.”
The Kulluk has about 139,000 gallons of ultra-low-sulfur diesel on board and is estimated to have 12,000 gallons of lube oil and hydraulic fluid combined. The Kulluk was built in 1983 and had been scheduled to be scrapped before Shell bought it in 2005. Since then, Shell has spent $292 million in upgrades to it.
Ed Markey (D- MA) of the US House of Representatives’ Natural Resources Committee gave a statement saying, “Oil companies cannot currently drill safely in the foreboding conditions of the Arctic, and drilling expansion could prove disastrous for this sensitive environment.”