Shell’s Beached Kulluk Oil Rig Towed To Safe Harbor

Jan 7, 2013

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.

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

Shortly before noon Pacific Time, the rig reached a sheltered bay on Kodiak Island. Its escort fleet included a Coast Guard cutter and three tugs from Seattle. Crews on the escort boats reported seeing no spilled oil with their infra-red 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 rig to drill for oil in the Arctic this summer after some maintenance work in a Seattle shipyard. The effort to salvage the Kulluk has involved more than 700 people.