News / USA

    Shell Oil Drill Ship Runs Aground Off Alaska Coast

    In this photo provided by the United States Coast Guard, the tugs Aiviq and Nanuq tow the mobile drilling unit Kulluk while a Coast Guard helicopter from Air Station Kodiak transports crew members on Dec. 29, 2012, 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska.
    In this photo provided by the United States Coast Guard, the tugs Aiviq and Nanuq tow the mobile drilling unit Kulluk while a Coast Guard helicopter from Air Station Kodiak transports crew members on Dec. 29, 2012, 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska.
    Reuters
    A large drill ship belonging to oil company Shell ran aground off Alaska on Monday night after drifting in stormy weather, company and government officials said.

    The ship, the Kulluk, broke away from one of its tow lines on Monday afternoon and was driven to rocks just off Kodiak Island, where it grounded at about 9 p.m. Alaska time, officials said.

    The 18-member crew had been evacuated by the U.S. Coast Guard late Saturday because of risks from the storm.

    With winds reported at up to 60 miles (100 km) an hour and Gulf of Alaska seas of up to 35 feet (11 m), responders were unable to keep the ship from grounding, said Coast Guard Commander Shane Montoya, the leader of the incident command team.

    "We are now entering into the salvage and possible spill-response phase of this event," Montoya told a news conference late on Monday night in Anchorage.

    There were three minor injuries to people responding to the incident but all personnel have returned to duty.

    No spill so far, another overflight expected Tuesday

    There is no known spill and no reports of damage yet and a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter overflight conducted shortly after the grounding detected no visible sheen.

    A spokeswoman for the command team said it would do another overflight during daylight on Tuesday, weather permitting.

    The Kulluk has about 139,000 gallons of ultra-low-sulfur diesel on board, and equipment on the Kulluk is estimated to have about 12,000 gallons of combined lube oil and hydraulic fluid.

    The grounding of the Kulluk, a conical, Arctic-class drill ship weighing nearly 28,000 gross tons, is a blow to Shell's $4.5 billion offshore program in Alaska.

    Shell's plan to convert the area into a major new oil frontier has alarmed environmentalists and many Alaska Natives, but excited industry supporters.

    Environmentalists and Native opponents say the drilling program threatens a fragile region that is already being battered by rapid climate change.

    "Shell and its contractors are no match for Alaska's weather and sea conditions either during drilling operations or during transit," Lois Epstein, Arctic program director for The Wilderness Society, said in an email.

    "Shell's costly drilling experiment in the Arctic Ocean needs to be stopped by the federal government or by Shell itself given the unacceptably high risks it poses to both humans and the environment," she added.

    The nearest town is Old Harbor, located on the opposite side of Kodiak Island from where the Kulluk is grounded. Old Harbor is a Native Alutiiq village with 208 residents.

    The leading Democrat on the U.S House of Representatives' Natural Resources Committee, Ed Markey, of Massachusetts, said in a statement that this incident and others illustrated the perils of oil drilling in the Arctic.

    "Oil companies cannot currently drill safely in the foreboding conditions of the Arctic, and drilling expansion could prove disastrous for this sensitive environment," he said.
           
    Bedevilled by problems

    The Kulluk's woes began on Friday, when the Shell ship towing it south experienced a mechanical failure and lost its connection to the drill vessel.

    That ship, the Aivik, was reattached to the Kulluk early on Monday morning, as was a tug sent to the scene by the operator of the Trans Alaska Pipeline System. But the Aivik lost its link Monday afternoon, and the tug's crew could only try to guide the drill ship to a position where, if it grounded, "it would have the least amount of impact to the environment,'' Montoya said.

    The tug Alert intentionally disconnected about 30 minutes before the ground for the protection of the nine crew members aboard the tug.

    The Kulluk was used by Shell in September and October to drill a prospect in the Beaufort Sea. It was being taken to Seattle for the off season when the problems began on Friday.

    Shell Oil incident commander Susan Childs, second from right, answers a question about the grounding of the drill ship Kulluk at a press conference, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012 in Anchorage.Shell Oil incident commander Susan Childs, second from right, answers a question about the grounding of the drill ship Kulluk at a press conference, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012 in Anchorage.
    x
    Shell Oil incident commander Susan Childs, second from right, answers a question about the grounding of the drill ship Kulluk at a press conference, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012 in Anchorage.
    Shell Oil incident commander Susan Childs, second from right, answers a question about the grounding of the drill ship Kulluk at a press conference, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012 in Anchorage.
    Susan Childs, emergency incident commander for Shell, held out hope that a significant spill from the drill ship was unlikely.

    "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," she told the news conference.

    Shell is waiting for weather to moderate "to begin a complete assessment of the Kulluk," she said. "We hope to ultimately recover the Kulluk with minimal or no damage to the environment."

    The Kulluk was built in 1983 and had been slated to be scrapped before Shell bought it in 2005. The company has spent $292 million since then to upgrade the vessel.

    Shell's Arctic campaign has been bedevilled by problems. A second drill ship, the Discoverer, was briefly detained in December by the Coast Guard in Seward, Alaska, because of safety concerns. A mandatory oil-containment barge, the Arctic Challenger, failed for months to meet Coast Guard requirements for seaworthiness and a ship mishap resulted in damage to a critical piece of equipment intended to cap a blown well.

    You May Like

    In Britain, The Sun Still Doesn’t Shine

    Invoking Spitfires and Merlin, Leave voters insist country can be great again, following surprising 'Brexit' vote last week

    Double Wave of Suicide Bombings Puts Lebanon, Refugees on Edge

    Following suicide bombings in Christian town of Al-Qaa, on Lebanon's northeast border with Syria, fears of further bombings have risen

    US Senators Warned on Zika After Failing to Pass Funding

    Zika threats and challenges, as well as issues of contraception and vaccines, spelled out as lawmakers point fingers

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeasti
    X
    June 29, 2016 6:15 PM
    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora