Thursday 22 February 2018

'No leak' from stricken oil ship

The drilling rig Kulluk aground off a small island near Kodiak Island (AP/US Coast Guard)
The drilling rig Kulluk aground off a small island near Kodiak Island (AP/US Coast Guard)

Crews aboard two aircraft which flew over an oil drilling ship that went aground in a severe Alaska storm say there is no sign that the vessel is leaking fuel or that its hull has been breached.

The Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig used this summer in the Arctic is aground off a small island near Kodiak Island, where the ship, the Kulluk, appeared stable, said federal on-scene response co-ordinator Captain Paul Mehler.

"There is no sign of a release of any product," he said during a news conference at unified command centre at an Anchorage hotel.

When the storm eases and weather permits, the plan is to get marine experts on board the Kulluk to take photos and videos, and then come up with a more complete salvage plan.

The rig ran aground on Monday on a sand and gravel shore off an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Alaska. Capt Mehler said the Kulluk was carrying about 143,000 gallons of diesel and about 12,000 gallons of lube oil and hydraulic fluid.

A US Coast Guard C-130 plane and a helicopter were used to fly over the grounded vessel on Tuesday. The severe weather did not permit putting the marine experts on board the drilling rig, which is near shore and being pounded by stormy seas.

Capt Mehler said there was a team of about 500 people working on a response to the situation "with many more coming".

The goal remained to get salvagers aboard the Kulluk and the ship refloated, he said.

A Shell official said the drilling rig was built with a double-sided hull of reinforced steel 3ins thick. It had recently undergone £180 million of improvements before being put into service for a short time this past summer in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska's north coast.

Stormy weather eased on Tuesday with waves 25 to 30ft and winds reduced to about 35mph. Winds were 70mph and waves had reached 50ft overnight, the National Weather Service said.

Press Association

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