USCG: Noble Drillship Grounding Cannot Be Confirmed… Or Denied

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July 16, 2012

Did she touch?

Coast Guard personnel in Unalaska continue to investigate reports that the Noble Discoverer dragged anchor Saturday in Dutch Harbor and possibly grounded.  Photos from the scene show the drillship so close to shore that many maritime experts have been left questioning how the ship could not have touched bottom.

“While the vessel master reported he did not believe the vessel grounded, this cannot be confirmed by the Coast Guard at this time,” said Lt. James Fothergill, supervisor Coast Guard Marine Safety Detachment Unalaska and the lead investigating officer on the case. “Divers are expected to inspect the vessel’s hull Friday.”

Read: Shell Drill ship Runs Aground – gCaptain Forum

The USCG says that the vessel is currently moored 500 to 750 yards from shore in Unalaska Bay with tugs standing by. A remotely operated vehicle aboard the Noble Discoverer was used to inspect the hull Saturday after the vessel was reanchored and the crew reported seeing no evidence of damage to the hull or grounding. The Coast Guard says that it will be reviewing that footage as part of the investigation.

Meanwhile, Divers have been contracted by Shell to inspect the exterior hull of the vessel. The Coast Guard will inspect the the interior of the vessel’s hull. The Noble Discoverer crew is working to arrange mooring at the city pier in Unalaska in advance of the divers’ arrival which anticipated now to be Friday.

The Coast Guard received a report at 5:18 p.m. Saturday that the Noble Discoverer, one of two drilling rigs set to start an exploratory drilling program this summer off Alaska’s North Slope, dragged anchor 175-yards from the shore of Unalaska Island and was drifting toward land. The crew immediately let out more anchor chain to slow the drift and called for a tug assist. The tugs were able to tow the vessel back to a safe anchorage. The crew aboard the Noble Discoverer stated that while they came extremely close to land they did not feel any impact or vibration to indicate a grounding.

The vessel’s mooring location is in deep water and is a common anchorage for large commercial vessels. Weather at the time of the incident was reported as sustained winds of 27 mph with gusts to 35 mph.

No injuries or pollution have been reported.

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