Rig Reaches Shelter
4:40 pm
Mon January 7, 2013

Shell’s Beached Kulluk Oil Rig Towed To Safe Harbor

The Kulluk aground off Sitkalidak Island, Alaska.
Credit Travis Marsh, U.S. Coast Guard.

A shipwrecked oil rig that was bound for Seattle has been floated off the rocks and towed to a safe harbor in the Gulf of Alaska. A fleet of nine ships accompanied Shell Oil’s Kulluk drill rig on the 45-mile tow. Shortly before noon Pacific Time, the rig reached its anchorage in sheltered Kiliuda Bay on Kodiak Island.  

The escort fleet for the Kulluk included a Coast Guard cutter and three tugs from Seattle. Crews on the escort boats reported seeing no spilled oil with their infrared devices.

Shell had attempted to tow the rig with just one tug from Alaska down to Seattle in December. But one of the Gulf of Alaska’s frequent winter storms caused the rig to break free. The Kulluk ran aground late on New Year’s Eve.

Shell and government officials plan to inspect the rig to see if it can still be towed to Washington state. Shell had planned to use the Kulluk to drill for oil in the Arctic this summer after some maintenance work in a Seattle shipyard.

The effort to salvage the rig has involved more than 700 people.

Last week, 45 Democratic members of the U.S. House of Representatives' Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition called on the U.S. Department of the Interior and the Coast Guard to conduct a joint investigation into the grounding and into the failure of Shell's Arctic oil-spill containment system during a test in Puget Sound.  An Interior official on board Shell's Arctic Challenger near Anacortes, Wash., during that test reported that a 20-foot spill-containment dome was "crushed like a beer can."