As a fierce Gulf of Alaska storm intensifies, the drilling vessel Kulluk is back under tow this morning by the Aiviq and tug Alert. All three vessels are currently located about 19 miles southeast of Kodiak Island facing winds of 55 knots and 30 foot seas over the next 24 hours.
At approximately 12:45 a.m., Monday, Dec. 31, the Alert was able to secure the 400-foot line that was previously the tow line used by the Aiviq. The Alert successfully added tension to the line to test its ability to hold.
Later in the morning, the Aiviq also restored its connection to the Kulluk and the two ships are towing the Kulluk to Port Hobron on the southeast side of Kodiak Island to seek shelter from the harsh storm that has been impacting the tow for the past several days.
The tug 10,000 horsepower Alert is owned by Crowley and has a bollard pull of 300,000 lbs. The Alert-class features best-in-class technology and were specifically designed for tanker escort and assist work in the region, and have firefighting, emergency and oil spill response capabilities.
The following is the latest 24hr surface synopsis for the north-eastern Pacific.
The Aiviq first reported that its tow line to the Kulluk had parted in heavy seas Thursday night as the vessels while underway from Alaska to Seattle. Aiviq recaptured the Kulluk, then went adrift itself when all four diesel engines cut out. At the moment, it appears the cause has been unofficially traced back to the fuel on board. The Aiviq’s crew restored all engines Saturday after two Coast Guard helicopters delivered replacement fuel injectors. Later Saturday the crew of the Kulluk were evacuated as a precaution after towing had resumed.
A Unified Command consisting of the Coast Guard, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, and other federal, state, local and tribal partners was established on Friday and is working with Royal Dutch Shell and Edison Chouest Offshore to respond to this incident.
The Unified Command is in direct contact with the crews of the response vessels and is receiving routine reports about conditions on scene. This information, along with updated weather reports from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is being used to develop future course of action and plan for various contingencies that may occur.
“The communication between the different stakeholders involved in this response has been exceptional,” said Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, commander, Coast Guard 17th District. “The ability to quickly adapt and safely coordinate efforts to maintain control of the Kulluk despite the harsh weather remain the key factors in a successful outcome.”
Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews from Air Station Kodiak are preparing to deploy several technicians aboard the Kulluk. The technicians will inspect the current condition of the towlines on the drilling unit.
“We have a brief weather window which provides the opportunity to get experts aboard the Kulluk to inspect the drilling unit and its tow set up,” said Ostebo. “They will provide key onsite information about towing issues or concerns and allow the Unified Command to develop contingency plans accordingly.”
Weather on scene is reported at 32-mph winds and 4-foot seas but is forecast to increase to 63-mph winds and 28-foot seas by Monday evening.
Additional details and photos of the USCG operation to deliver parts and evacuate the crew of the Kulluk can be found HERE.
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