Waves crash over the conical drilling unit Kulluk where it sat aground on the southeast side of Sitkalidak Island, Alaska, Jan. 1, 2013. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

Waves crash over the conical drilling unit Kulluk where it sat aground on the southeast side of Sitkalidak Island, Alaska, Jan. 1, 2013. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.

The U.S. Coast Guard on Monday kicked off its formal marine casualty investigation hearing into the December 31 grounding of Shell’s Kulluk drilling rig on Sitkalidak Island.

The closed-door hearing, which is being held in Anchorage, Alaska, will look to examine the facts, circumstances, and causal factors involved in the Kulluk grounding.

The Kulluk, a conical drilling unit owned by Shell, was under tow by the M/V Aiviq from Dutch Harbor to Seattle when it ran into rough weather and broke free from its tow on December 27. The Kulluk grounded four days later in shallow water off Sitkalidak Island, near Kodiak Island, after several failed attempts to reconnect.

Commandor Joshua McTaggart from the Coast Guard Investigations National Center of Expertise is conducting the investigation with the assistance of technical advisors from Coast Guard Sector Anchorage and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. Representatives from the National Transportation Safety Board are also participating in the investigation.

Witnesses from the Coast Guard, Shell, Nobel, and other organizations, as identified, will be called to testify about the facts and circumstance surrounding the grounding of the Kulluk.

Once the investigation is completed, the investigating officer will submit a written report of investigation, which will include findings of facts, conclusions, and recommendations.

The Kulluk’s grounding capped a series of mishaps that have dogged Shell’s effort to tap Arctic oil, and eventually led the company to withdraw from its 2013 Arctic drilling program.

A full schedule of the hearing can be found HERE.

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