Shell’s Damaged Icebreaker Headed for U.S. West Coast for Repairs

Mike Schuler
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July 13, 2015

MSV Fennica. Photo: Shell Alaska


An icebreaker that was scheduled to head to the Chukchi Sea in support of Shell’s arctic drilling campaign will instead head back to U.S. West Coast for repairs to its damaged hull.

A spokesman for Shell confirmed Monday that the Finnish multipurpose icebreaker MSV Fennica will return to a shipyard in Portland, Oregon to repair a gash suffered in the hull of the vessel during its stay in Alaska.

The Fennica was departing Dutch Harbor, AK for the Chukchi Sea on July 3rd when crew members and a licensed harbor pilot discovered a leak in the vessel’s ballast tank, forcing the ship back to Dutch. An inspection revealed a 39-inch long by nearly 1-inch wide gash below the waterline.

The MSV Finnica, which is owned and operated by Finland’s Arctia Shipping, is one of two icebreakers and 29 vessels that will head to the Chukchi Sea this summer in support of Shell’s planned arctic drilling operations. The vessel will be used primarily for ice reconnaissance and management, but it also carries the well capping stack, a key piece of containment equipment that is considered the last line of defense in the case of a major blowout while drilling.

The Shell spokesman said that the repairs should not interrupt the company’s 2015 drilling schedule as the Fennica will not be need until August after top-hole drilling is carried out, the Associated Press reports.

A statement released by Arctia Shipping said that MSV Fennica will transit to Portland for repairs before returning to Alaskan waters for its operational duties. “The vessel is required on the operational area only late in the August so the drydocking in Portland has been chosen for repairs,” the statement said.

gCaptain has confirmed that the vessel will head to the Vigor Industrial facility in Portland. Repairs are expected to take just 36 to 48 hours, gCaptain is told. 

The damage to the vessel is believed to have been caused by a previously uncharted shoal in the vicinity of the Unalaska Bay area.

Shell won approval for this summer’s Arctic plans from the U.S. Interior Department in May and the company is still awaiting one final permit before it is allowed to commence drilling operations.

AIS data showed the Fennica still moored in Dutch Harbor as of Monday.

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