The U.S. Coast Guard announced Monday that hundreds of tasks remain in the construction of an overdue oil-spill barge. As KUOW's John Ryan reports, Arctic drilling is on hold until the construction project in Bellingham wraps up.
Shell Oil is building the Arctic Challenger barge on the Bellingham waterfront as part of its plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean this summer. The Challenger is designed to cap blown-out wells and vacuum up oil spilled underwater.
Coast Guard officials say they're waiting for Shell to finish nearly 200 items on the barge before they can be inspected. Those include things like electrical and firefighting equipment.
Another 200 items remain to be documented before the Coast Guard will declare the barge seaworthy. Then, after another federal agency tests the Challenger's oil-vacuuming system, the barge can be towed to the Arctic. Shell says that journey will take two weeks or more.
Shell had planned to begin drilling in July. But delays in construction of the barge have forced the world's largest oil company to cut back its Arctic drilling plans. Shell only has permission to drill in the brief Arctic summer.
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