Engine problems hit ship towing Shell drill ship

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The failure of a towing vessel’s engine left a Royal Dutch Shell PLC drill ship stalled Friday in rough Gulf of Alaska water 50 miles south of Kodiak Island.

A relief tug plowed through 20-foot waves and winds of 40 mph Friday afternoon to reach the Kulluk, one of two drill ships Shell operated this year in the short Arctic Ocean open water season, and the vessel that had been towing it, the 360-foot Aiviq.

No decision had been made regarding where the vessels would be moved, said Coast Guard spokesman David Mosley in Anchorage.

The Kulluk, a round ship with a 160-foot derrick that resembles a bowling pin in a bowl, has no propulsion system. It was built in 1983 for a Canadian company and purchased by Shell in 2005.

The ship was designed for extended drilling in Arctic waters has an ice-reinforced, funnel-shape hull 266 feet in diameter. The conical shape is designed to deflect moving ice downward and break it into small pieces.

In open water, the Kulluk is designed to maintain its location while drilling in storm conditions associated with waves up to 18 feet. It’s designed to withstand waves of 40 feet when disconnected.

Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith said 17 people are on board the drill ship. A crew of 70 can operate it during drilling operations and it has accommodations for more than 100.

The Aiviq is carrying a partial crew of 24 and can accommodate 62. It was built to operate in the Arctic and is owned and operated by Edison Chouest Offshore of Galliano, La.

The drill ship was being towed from Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands to Seattle when problems arose Thursday.

“It was reported that they had lost their tow, so we diverted the (cutter) Alex Haley as a safety precaution,” Mosley said.

The Kodiak-based Alex Haley had been in port for Christmas and had just begun a patrol.

The cutter reached the stricken vessels at 2 a.m. Friday. About two hours later, the Aiviq reported multiple engine failures.

“It’s been reported that they had some bad gas — like water in the fuel — which caused them to lose power to their engines,” Mosley said. That assessment was preliminary, he said.

Coast Guardsmen on the Alex Haley attempted to fix a tow line to the Aiviq, Mosley said, to keep it from drifting. The attempt failed.

“Their tow line parted, and part of the tow line ended up wrapped around one of the propellers on the Alex Haley,” Mosely said. With just one propeller, the cutter had limited maneuverability.

The Aiviq crew was able to restart one engine, and with generators had enough power to maintain its position. The crew also re-established a tow line to the drill ship.

The Coast Guard sent a C-130 aircraft to the ships after daybreak. When it arrived at 11:30 a.m., the Alex Haley was released to address the cable wrapped around its propeller.

Two vessels under contract to Shell left Seward when the trouble began. The tug Guardsman reached the vessels at 2 p.m. The Nanuq, Shell’s principal oil spill response vessel, was expected to arrive early Saturday afternoon.

The Coast Guard Cutter Hickory left Homer on Friday to provide on-scene safety assistance, Mosley said, and should arrive Saturday afternoon.

More in Local News

Man arrested after police find van full of drugs, cash and guns

An officer on patrol noticed a vehicle by itself in the middle of a WinCo parking lot at 2 a.m.

Jim Mathis, the Vietnam veteran whose Marysville garden was recently featured in The Herald, died Wednesday. Mathis, who suffered from PTSD and cancer, found solace in his beautiful garden. (Dan Bates / The Herald)
Vietnam veteran Jim Mathis found peace in his garden

The Marysville man who served two tours died Wednesday after suffering from cancer and PTSD.

Smith Island habitat restoration cost to rise $1.2 million

The project is intended to increase survival rates for juvenile chinook salmon.

Add deputies and bump taxes a bit, executive proposes

Dave Somers’ Snohomish County budget proposal also would address traffic problems in neighborhoods.

County councilman proposes banning safe injection sites

Nate Nehring says county officials also should find “credible, long-term solutions to addiction.”

Car crashes near Everett after State Patrol pursuit

The driver and a second person in the car suffered injuries.

They chose the longshot candidate to fill a vacant seat

Sultan Mayor Carolyn Eslick will serve as representative for the 39th legislative district.

Bicyclist injured in collision with SUV on Highway 204

A bicyclist was injured Saturday after colliding with a… Continue reading

Police: Officers shoot man during standoff at home

The man placed his arm through a window and pointed a handgun at officers.

Most Read