No Leak Found from Grounded Drillship's Tanks

A team of five people boarded Shell's Kulluk ship, grounded since Dec. 31 on the southeast coast of Sitkalidak Island, Alaska. They reported it is firmly aground and found no signs of environmental impact.

A five-person assessment team spent three hours aboard Shell's Arctic-class drillship, the Kulluk, on Jan. 2 to check its condition. The circular drillship grounded on the southeast shoreline of Sitkalidak Island, Alaska, about 9 p.m. local time Dec. 31 while being towed in heavy seas from Alaska to Everett, Wash.

A helicopter delivered and retrieved the team from the ship. "The team spent several hours onboard and was able to confirm earlier indications from multiple flyovers by the US Coast Guard that the Kulluk remains firmly aground and is stable, based on the inspections performed to date. The team also confirmed there are no signs of environmental impact, and there has been no leakage of the low-sulphur diesel fuel or hydraulic fluid stored in strong tanks onboard the vessel," Shell reported in a Jan. 2 statement on its Kulluk response website.

According to the website of the Unified Command overseeing the response efforts, the Kulluk is an internationally rated Polar Class 4 drilling unit, which means it is rated to operate year-round in Arctic climates. It is built of steel and is double-hulled, and no tanks for fuel or other fluids rest against the exterior wall of its hull. The Unified Command consists of the U.S. Coast Guard, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Shell, Noble Drilling Contractor, and Kodiak Island Borough.

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