UPDATE: Diver Inspection of Drillship Leased By Shell Shows No Damage

HOUSTON - A team of divers inspecting a drillship leased by Royal Dutch Shell Plc for its Arctic oil-exploration program found no signs of damage after the ship drifted off its moorings last weekend, a spokeswoman said Tuesday.

In an email, Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh said the dive team completed the inspection. "No damage found," she said. The results confirmed the findings of a remotely operated vehicle sent earlier.

Saturday, the drillship Noble Discoverer, owned by Noble Corp., drifted toward land while anchored off Dutch Harbor, Alaska. A Shell support vessel quickly towed the drillship back to its original anchoring point, the company said.

The U.S. Coast Guard, which watched the dive team conduct the inspection, confirmed Shell's findings. "The dive showed no damage to the vessel," indicating either it didn't go aground, or if it did, it hit softer ground that didn't cause damage, Coast Guard spokesman Dave Mosley said.

The Noble Discoverer is one of two drillships Shell intends to use for its controversial Arctic drilling program off Alaska, one of the most expensive exploration bets it has undertaken. The company's effort is being closely watched by regulators and environmentalists. The company plans to start drilling this summer.

Shell is investigating the incident. It has said its goal is to conduct "flawless operations" in Alaska. It said "even a 'near miss' is unacceptable."


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