Noble Discoverer unalaska aground dutch harbor

Doesn’t come much closer than this… Image courtesy A Northern View

Murphy’s Law was proven once again this weekend as the Noble Discoverer, a Shell-contracted drill ship destined to start drilling in arctic waters, encountered ground tackle issues of some sort last night and wound up dangerously close to the shore of Hog Island in Unalaska Bay near Dutch Harbor.

The state of Alaska has a number of different anchorages available in Unalaska Bay depending on the gross tonnage of a given vessel.  Wide Bay or Broad Bay (directly to the south of Wide Bay) are two designated anchorages for vessels greater than 20,000 gross tons, however the anchorage between Hog Island and Amaknak Island is the likely place where the Noble Discoverer was anchored.  This anchorage is rated for vessels between 10,000 and 19,999 GT which draw 30 feet or less.

At 13,485 GT, the Noble Discoverer is rated to anchor in that area.

Winds were blowing up to 35 knots at the time of the incident and the mud bottom should have provided a secure hold for the ship’s anchor(s).

Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer Sara Francis commented, “We received a report at about 5:18 p.m. that the anchor let go and they were traveling toward shore.  They took quick action with the assistance of tugs to redirect and move the vessel away from shore.”

unalaska island

Wide Bay (top left) with Broad Bay just to the south


Hog Island unalaska

Hog Island, Unalaska, AK

Approximate location of grounding.

Shell spokesperson Curtis Smith commented on the incident:

Today, while moored off the coast of Dutch Harbor, the Noble Discoverer drill ship drifted toward land and stopped very near the coast.  One of Shell’s vessels, the Lauren Foss, then safely towed the Discoverer to its prior mooring position, and the ship’s engines were started.  Shell personnel are now evaluating the ship’s mooring system to determine why the vessel moved closer to shore.  As a precaution, we have activated a dive team to inspect the drill ship.

Dutch Harbor unalaska noble discoverer incident

Location of Dutch Harbor, Alaska

UPDATE: The USCG reports no underwater damage to the Noble Discoverer, however Shell is dispatching a 3rd party dive team to inspect the vessel.

Follow the Forum discussion HERE

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  • Federico Palacin Manen

    As a previous employee of Noble I am not surprised of this news, mainly from one company who has not marine department ( they have only drilling and subsea department) and where the marine operations check list and also the emergency check lists for emergency marine situations are not in use and doesn’t exist because the company has not produced this documents.

    • Drill Baby Drill

      You must not have been with Noble long, because you don’t know much about it..or offshore drilling operations period. There’s an extensive marine department as required by Coast Gaurd. This is standard practice for ANY vessel. And if you’ve spent any time aboard any Noble facility you would know that emergency response plans and procedures are in place and have been for many many years. All these points I’ve just made are industry standard, not just Noble. Do some research and learn some facts for yourself before posting such statements.

  • Randy Davis

    Interesting how the photograph entitled “it doesn’t get much closer than this” was taken two years ago and yet the story is purported to have happened yesterday.

    • James Mason

      The photo was taken Saturday, July 14, 2012. The camera’s internal date must be wrong. I was there also.

  • Peter Aird

    Accidents like this are too common in drilling. I agree with other comments. These events simply do not just happen but are cause due to a lack of management, management standards, due and diligent safety management systems, poor planning, lack of marine competencies so it would seem, not having the right information, knowledge, tools, equipment, experience etc. However as no one got hurt, no one will raise an eyebrow or view this as safety! A sticking plaster will be placed of this accidental loss intrusion and business will continue as usual. In reality this is another wake up call, till the next accidental event when things may not turn out quite so swimmingly well. What/if?

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