The Shell drilling rig Kulluk ran aground around 9 p.m. Monday near Kodiak on the southeast side of Sitkalidak Island, a U.S. Coast Guard spokesperson said, citing 40-foot waves and 65 mph winds as contributing factors.
The crew aboard one of the tugs, Alert, that was towing the Kulluk, was ordered at 8:15 p.m. -- before the rig ran aground -- to separate from the Kulluk "to maintain the safety of the nine crewmembers aboard the vessel," according to a statement released by the Coast Guard and Shell.
Monday afternoon, two tugs were towing the Kulluk, which had been adrift in the Gulf of Alaska for three days. One tug lost its tow at about 4:40 p.m., said a Coast Guard officer, who said the decision was then made that it would be unsafe for the crewmembers aboard the other tug, Alert, to continue pulling the Kulluk alone.
The Kulluk grounded in a rocky area on the northern tip of Ocean Bay. The Coast Guard said it will assess whether there was any environmental damage.
No one was aboard the Kulluk at the time it ran aground, and no injuries were reported, said the Coast Guard. But the drilling rig has 150,000 gallons of "ultra-low sulphur diesel" and "roughly 120,000 gallons of combined lube oil and hydraulic fluid."
"We have more than 250 people actively involved in the response efforts," said Susan Childs, Shell's incident commander, in a statement.
Tuesday, weather permitting, the Coast Guard planned to fly over the area to further assess the situation.
It is unclear whether the Kulluk can be salvaged, said both Shell and Coast Guard spokespeople.