U.S. Coast Guard Concludes Kulluk Hearings

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June 5, 2013

A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft from Air Station Kodiak overflies the tugs Aiviq and Nanuq tandem towing the mobile drilling unit Kulluk, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012, prior to its running aground. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Chris Usher.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The U.S. Coast Guard on Wednesday said it has wrapped up its formal marine casualty investigation hearing on the contributing causes that led to the grounding of Shell’s Kulluk drilling rig in Alaska on Dec. 31, 2012.

Testimony gathered during the nine-day closed-door hearing will now be reviewed and added to the ongoing formal marine casualty investigation.

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. The incident, among, others, has since led Shell to cancel it’s 2013 arctic drilling program.

During the hearing, witnesses from the Coast Guard, Shell, Noble Drilling, GL Noble Denton, Offshore Rig Mover’s International, Crowley, Edison Chouest Offshore and Delmar Systems were called to testify about the facts and circumstances surrounding the grounding of the Kulluk.

Coast Guard Cmdr. Joshua McTaggart, investigating officer, Coast Guard Investigations National Center of Expertise, conducted the hearings as part of his ongoing investigation. He is scheduled to submit a written report of the investigation, which will include findings of facts, conclusions and recommendations, to Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, commander, Coast Guard 17th District, who ordered the formal marine casualty investigation. The report is scheduled for delivery in early July, but the investigating officer can ask for extra time as needed.

Ostebo will use the findings and recommendations in the report to determine whether additional measures are required to prevent similar marine casualties and what, if any, actions need to be taken to promote safety of life and property at sea.

Discussion about the hearings can be found on the gCaptain Forum, HERE.

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