Update: Anchorage, AK – Unified Command update for Monday, January 7, 2013:
Unified Command has confirmed that the Kulluk, towed by the anchor handling vessel Aiviq, approached its safe harbor location in Kiliuda Bay at approximately 10 a.m., Alaska Time. The final location for assessment within the Bay will be determined by environmental conditions, including weather.
The Kulluk traveled 45 nautical miles since the start of the tow, roughly 12 hours ago. Average speed has been 3.5 knots or 4 mph.
The Kulluk was refloated from its Ocean Bay position, off Sitkalidak Island, late Jan. 6. It will remain connected to its support vessels while it undergoes assessment in Kiliuda Bay, located about 30 miles north of Ocean Bay.
Monitoring by the oil spill response vessels escorting the tow confirmed that there were no signs of a discharge of oil during the transit.
Earlier: Shell and a salvage crew managed to refloat a drilling rig that ran aground in Alaska in preparation for towing it to a safe harbour.
The Kulluk is attached to the MV Aiviq by tow line. Three additional tugs are on standby along with the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley and two oil spill response vessels (see below). The Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley escorted the tow to Kiliuda Bay and will continue to maintain a 500-yard radius safety zone around the Kulluk.
The Kulluk, which broke free from a tow boat during a storm on Dec. 31, was refloated off Sitkalidak Island at about 10:10 p.m. Alaska time last night, the Unified Command said in a statement. The salvage crew plans to tow the rig about 30 miles (48 kilometers) to Kiliuda Bay for more tests.
“The Kulluk is currently floating offshore while personnel are assessing the condition of the vessel,” the statement read. “We will not move forward to the next phase until we are confident that we can safely transport the vessel,” Martin Padilla, the incident commander, said in the statement.
The rig grounded near the island, on the north edge of Ocean Bay, about 60 miles southwest of Kodiak, Alaska.
The Unified Command includes the U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Kodiak Island Borough and Shell. 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, according to the command website.
There are more than 730 people involved in the rig recovery.
– Eduard Gismatullin of Bloomberg contributed to this article.
The tow includes several vessels but is being led by the MV Aiviq, an anchor-handling tug that was with the Kulluk when it first broke free December 27 and eventually grounded.
The Unified Command says that a Coast Guard marine inspector is aboard the Aiviq and the Salvage Master is aboard the Kulluk and will remain their during the operation and transit to Kiliuda Bay. A 10-member salvage crew and one Shell representative will also remaind on board the Kulluk. The tug Alert, a Crowley tug that came to assist the recovery of the Kulluk prior to grounding, will also be connected to the Kulluk and assist in the tow.
Three Seattle-based ocean-going tugs, all with towing capabilities, will support the transit – Ocean Wave, Corbin Foss, and Lauren Foss.
The Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley will escort the tow to Kiliuda Bay and maintain 500-yard radius safety zone around the Kulluk will follow the tow and remain in place once it is anchored in Kiliuda Bay.
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