A Shell drill ship carrying around 143,000 gallons of diesel ran aground off the coast of Alaska on Monday night. The ship, Kulluk, hit rocks near Kodiak Island at approximately 9 p.m. local time on December 31, 2012, after days of efforts to guide it through stormy Alaskan seas. According to company and government officials, there has been no loss of life and at present there is no sign of fuel leaks from the vessel.

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The drilling difficulties began on Thursday when the rig separated from a towing vessel south of Kodiak Island as it was being towed to Seattle for maintenance. The Kulluk separated from the 360-foot (110-meter) anchor handler Aiviq, as they were moving north along Kodiak Island, trying to escape the storm. According to Shell’s official statement, the incident did not involve drilling operations but was caused by failure of multiple engines on the towing vessel.

Carrying about 143,000 gallons (541,000 litres) of diesel, as well as about 12,000 gallons of lube oil and hydraulic fluid, Kulluk was built with a double-sized hull of reinforced steel and had recently undergone $292 million in improvements.

“There is no sign of a release of any product,” said federal on-scene response coordinator Capt. Paul Mehler, during a news conference at unified command center at an Anchorage hotel.

As soon as the weather permits, marine experts will board the ship, to document the situation and develop a salvage plan. Mehler said that a team of about 500 people was working on a response to the situation, “with many more coming”.

Expressing concerns about the situation, U.S. Rep. Ed Markey, a top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said in his statement:”Oil companies keep saying they can conquer the Arctic, but the Arctic keeps disagreeing with the oil companies. Drilling expansion could prove disastrous for this sensitive environment”.

Via USA Today

Lead Photo by U.S. Coast Guard’s Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis