Workers prepare equipment and supplies on the airport tarmac in Kodiak Thursday, Jan. 4 to be used in the ongoing Kulluk response and recovery effort. Photo by Greg Martin via KullukResponse.com

Workers prepare equipment and supplies on the airport tarmac in Kodiak Thursday, Jan. 4 to be used in the ongoing Kulluk response and recovery effort. Photo by Greg Martin via KullukResponse.com

The Kulluk incident’s Unified Command on Saturday gave the go-ahead to Shell to remove the grounded drilling rig near Sitkalidak Island in Alaska.

In a statement, the Unified Command said it planned to hook a main tow line to the Kulluk, depending on local weather and tidal conditions, in preparation for its recovery. As we saw yesterday, a number of assets – including vessels, personnel, and equipment – have been moved to the area in preparation for the salvage. The Unified Command says that as a precaution, booms will be deployed around Kodiak Island, in particular to help protect salmon streams connected to Ocean Bay.

Unified Command has developed and approved a recovery plan after a series of inspections aboard the Kulluk.

The drilling rig continues to remain upright, fuel tanks appear to be intact, and there is no threat to the stability of the vessel. Also, naval architects have confirmed the structural strength of the vessel is sound and fit to tow.

Salvage teams are currently aboard the vessel and preparing for the recovery operations.

The current plan calls for the Kulluk to be towed to Kiliuda Bay for safe harbor – a tow of approximately 30 miles. When the Kulluk arrives in Kiliuda Bay, a more detailed assessment will take place.

In a update to the media, the Unified Command gave few details about the tow but said it will be carried out using the Aiviq and that the rig will not be lightened, including no removal of fuel. As much as 143,000 gallons of diesel and about 12,000 gallons of other refined oil products are currently stored on board the Kulluk.

TOWING PLAN ANIMATION

Officials did not give a timeline for the tow but did say that they were still awaiting a piece of towing equipment and any operations to remove the rig would be weather permitting. All things considered, the tow could happen soon, or will have to be postponed as a developing storm low over the central North Pacific will move northeastward towards Kodiak Alaska during the next 24-36 hours, according to forecasts by the Oceanweatherservices.com blog.

The officials added that a team of salvors from Smit and Shell representatives will be on board the Kulluk during the tow.

ASSETS IN THE AREA

Via KullukResponse.com. Click for large

Via KullukResponse.com. Click for large

The Kulluk continues to remain upright and stable with no reports of sheen in the vicinity. Salvage teams conducted an additional survey confirming all fuel tanks remain intact and can handle the operation.

A helicopter lands on the deck of the Kulluk  on Thursday, Jan. 4. Photo by Judy Patrick

For the first time since grounded, a helicopter lands on the deck of the Kulluk on Thursday, Jan. 4. Photo by Judy Patrick

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