Crew Assesses Grounded Drilling Rig
Five-member team of salvage experts spent three hours on Kulluk
ANCHORAGE - It was a successful day for a Coast Guard helicopter crew who managed to drop a team of salvage experts on to the deck of a grounded drilling rig near Kodiak. A five-member team from Smit Salvage spent about three hours on board the Kulluck, assessing what, if any, damage the rig might have sustained when it ran aground on the rocks.
Results of the inspection have not been released, but a series of flyovers has shown no sign of oil or fuel in the water. That’s a relief for Shell officials who have had a series of mishaps since an exploratory drilling season in Arctic waters this summer.
“We want to make sure that there are no spills right now,“ said Shell spokesman Curtis Smith. “We are pretty confident that there are none, but of course weather is in charge here.”
The Kulluk was carrying close to 140,000 gallons of diesel fuel and another 12,000 of oil and hydraulic lubricants when it broke free of several tow lines and eventually landed on the rocks. Crews Wednesday were able to deliver an emergency towing system to the rig, which they hope can be used to move it off the rocks and out to sea.
But while Shell says a series of unpredictable events led to the grounding, not everyone agrees.
“In our opinion, this is just confirmation that they’ll never have it together,” said biologist Kierston Lippmann of the Center for Biological Diversity. “Conditions in the Arctic can be much worse than the conditions they encountered just recently, so there is no question in our minds. This just confirms that it’s time to stop all drilling in the Arctic.”
Shell said an investigation will determine what went wrong and that the company will take responsibility for the outcome.