Shell, Coast Guard continue damage assessment on grounded Kulluk rig

Coast Guard and Shell officials are continuing a damage assessment on the grounded drill vessel Kulluk Friday as plans for moving the vessel to a nearby protected area are developed.

Shell is also doing aerial inspections that will include a deck inspection from the air.

In a situation report issued late Thursday the state Department of Environmental Conservation said a plan to move the Kulluk to a more protected area is being viewed by the Coast Guard and Shell, although it has not yet been approved. Details of the plan were not available.

Meanwhile, a second Emergency Towing System has been landed on the Kulluk, the state DEC said in its report. Also, all fuel tanks on the Kulluk were reported to be intact after an inspection Thursday, the state said.

In another development Smit Salvage has been retained by Shell to head up salvage operations, according to a separate report from the Shell/Coast Guard unified response team.

"Smit is a highly experienced salvage company that has assisted in hundreds of operations worldwide including the Selendang Aru salvage that took place off the western coast of Alaska in 2004. It also assisted in the Costa Concordia salvage off the coast of Italy in 2012," Shell and the Coast Guard said in a statement.

In a briefing Thursday a Shell official said the vessel remains upright and shows no sign of movement since grounding the night of Dec. 31.

Sean Churchfield, Shell's Alaska operations manager, also said there is no observed oil sheen or sign of leakage from fuel tanks on the vessel since the grounding.

The salvage team landed on the vessel also found some water damage to the interior due to watertight doors that were breached, he said.

The Kulluk was being towed from Dutch Harbor to the Pacific Northwest for winter maintenance after drilling an exploration well for Shell in the Alaska Beaufort Sea.

It was separated from towlines from tugs in severe weather over the weekend and grounded late Monday.

01/04/2013 - 9:34am