Vessels Restore Connections to Kulluk

Shell reported Monday that the support boat Aiviq and tug boat Alert had restored their connections to the Kulluk drilling rig and were towing the rig approximately 19 miles southeast of Kodiak Island, Alaska.

The Alert early Monday morning was able to secure the 400-foot line that was previously the tow line used by the Aiviq, successfully adding tension to the line to test its ability to hold. The Aiviq later in the morning restored its connection to the rig.

"Ensuring the safety of personnel and protecting the area's environment continue to be of the utmost importanc," Shell said in a statement.

The Aiviq's main propulsion engines lost power early on Dec. 28 while towing the Kulluk rig approximately 50 miles offshore Kodiak Island. As a precaution, the U.S. Coast Guard on Saturday evacauted the rig's 18 crew members and allowed the rig to drop anchor offshore Kodiak Island to slow the rig's drift and minimize potential impact to personnel and the environment. The response vessel Nanuq arrived Saturday to assist the Aiviq in keeping the rig stationary. The Alert arrived on Dec. 30 to join the Coast Guard vessel Guardsman in its efforts to assist the tow vessel and rig.

The Coast Guard reported Saturday it was battling 20 to 30-foot seas and 30 to 40-knot winds while assisting the crews of the Kulluk and its three support vessels, Guardsman, Aiviq and Nanuq. Coast Guard helicopter crews delivered engine parts and technicians to the crew of the Aiviq to allow crew members to repair the ship's three damaged engines. The repairs enabled Aiviq to hold position with Kulluk to keep both vessels from drifting closer to shoal waters near Kodiak, the Coast Guard said in a statement.

A number of Coast Guard assets, including the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley, have been on the scene to assist the Aiviq and Kulluk.

The Coast Guard, Royal Dutch Shell, along with Alaskan state, federal and local officials in Kodiak formed a unified command in case any of the vessels run aground or potentially release any fuel.

The cause of the Aiviq's engine failure will be determined in a follow-up investigation, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation reported on its website.

Karen Boman has more than 10 years of experience covering the upstream oil and gas sector. Email Karen at kboman@rigzone.com

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