Late Monday morning in Alaska, Royal Dutch Shell plc’s formerly grounded Kulluk drilling rig arrived safely at Kiliuda Bay. The rig had been refloated Sunday night and towed to its new location Monday morning.
The final location for assessment within the bay will be determined by environmental conditions, including weather, Kulluk Tow Incident Unified Command said in an update. The Kulluk traveled 45 nautical miles since the start of the tow. Average speed was 3.5 knots or 4 mph.
The rig had run aground last week on the southeast shoreline of Sitkalidak Island, AK, after separating from its tow vessel (see Daily GPI, Jan. 4).
During the tow Monday, crews used infrared monitoring equipment to check for any discharges of oil. None were detected, incident command said.
After the rig was refloated Sunday night, crews further assessed its condition. “We will not move forward to the next phase until we are confident that we can safely transport the vessel,” Incident Commander Martin Padilla said late Sunday.
More than 730 people have been involved in the response and recovery operation, including local residents and a local on-site coordinator. No injuries to any response personnel were reported as of Monday morning.
Kiliuda Bay is about 30 miles north of where the rig became stranded. The tow operation used several vessels, including the Aiviq, an anchor-handling vessel with ship towing capabilities. A U.S. Coast Guard marine inspector was aboard the Aiviq. The salvage master was aboard the Kulluk. The tug Alert was also connected to the Kulluk and assisted in the tow. A 10-member salvage crew and one Shell representative were on board the Kulluk.
Three Seattle-based oceangoing tugs, all with towing capabilities, supported the transit: Ocean Wave, Corbin Foss and Lauren Foss.
The Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley escorted the tow to Kiliuda Bay. A 500-yard radius safety zone around the Kulluk followed the tow and was to remain in place at Kiliuda Bay. Onshore, nearshore and offshore oil spill assets, including response vessels, were on-scene during the transit.
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