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