Aiviq skipper talks fuel, route in final Kulluk hearing

During the final afternoon of the Coast Guard’s hearing regarding the grounding of the Kulluk drill rig last December, a skipper from the tow vessel pulling the drilling unit said its fuel came from Delta Western.

The Aiviq's Jon Skoglund was the final person to give testimony during two weeks of hearings that were part of the Coast Guard’s marine casualty investigation into the grounding of the Kulluk Dec. 31 in the Gulf of Alaska.

The Kulluk was used in Shell’s arctic drilling operations in summer 2012, and was on its way to Seattle for upgrades when bad weather and other issues arose, and the vessel was grounded. The Kulluk, towed by the Aiviq, left Dutch Harbor Dec. 21.

The Aiviq was built specifically to tow the Kulluk.

The failure of all four engines on the Aiviq Dec. 27 has been cited as one of the major issues that cropped up during the voyage. Prior witnesses talked about a fuel issue causing the engine troubles. There was some discussion, by people not on the Aiviq, of water getting into the fuel. But those on the Aiviq said they thought it the issue was slime.

Skoglund said that no water was found in the fuel. The tanks had not been treated to prevent algae growth, he said after Coast Guard investigator Keith Fawcett asked about a biocide agent sometimes added to fuel to prevent algae and slime.

Skoglund said May 31 that the Aiviq fueled up with 440,000 gallons of diesel at Delta Western before leaving Dutch Harbor.

Shell paid for the fuel and received the certification from it, Skoglund said, so he wasn’t aware of an additive in it.

Fuel wasn’t the only issue. Rough weather and a failed shackle also complicated the tow.

No one has been certain why the shackle failed. Skoglund confirmed that he would have expected a different part to fail first.

Skoglund also talked about the route the Kulluk and Aiviq took after leaving Dutch. He initially thought it would be best to take the great circle route, which went through deeper water. That route would have allowed a longer tow line, which was better in rough weather, Skoglund said.

But the Kulluk wanted to stay within search and research range, which meant being closer to shore, incase a crew member needed medical assistance. The nearshore route was ultimately chosen, and Skoglund said he understood those concerns. Had he thought it was unsafe, he would have raised a concern, he said.

Skoglund was also asked about whether or not he felt his crew was prepared for the weather in the Gulf of Alaska. Although it was nasty, he said, the Gulf of Mexico’s hurricane season is also challenging, and probably helped prepared them.

05/31/2013 - 11:52am