Kulluk on the beach 01:01:13

I have now received word from two anonymous sources on Kodiak Island that it appears damage assessment of the Shell Oil drill rig Kulluk is far worse than has been thus far disclosed by the Unified Command:

Severe hull damage, making it unsafe to tow it to Puget Sound.

Severe power plant damage from saltwater contamination

Severe damage to wiring, ventilation and other internal control systems

Supposedly, a very large, oceangoing dry dock will be underway soon to Kodiak from Asia, and the rig will then be brought to Asia, most likely Korea, where it has been worked on before.

At present, the rig is being attended in Kiliuda Bay, an the southern shore of Kodiak Island by the tugs Pt. Oliktok, Warrrior, Lauren Foss, Ocean Wave and Corbin Foss.  Also on the scene is the anchor-handling vessel Aiviq, oil service vessel Nanuq, and the recently arrived oil service vessel, Sisuaq.  Several other smaller vessels are also present.  The Kulluk is now at anchor in the bay.

Kulluk attendees - 01:28:2013 @ 10-30 am

I called the 17th U.S. Coast Guard District headquarters this morning for possible confirmation.  I was told they have no public information, and referred to Shell Alaska’s press representative, Jennifer Taylor.  She did not answer my call, and there was no message service.  The Unified Command HQ has ceased to list a contact phone.  I contacted Shell’s U.S. media relations for the Kulluk incident, and was able to leave a message.  I also left a message with the State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Oil Spill Prevention and Response.

The latest information published by the Unified Command on the vessel’s condition was posted back on January 18th, nine days ago.  In the UC release, it was stated in part:

•  Multiple entities are involved in the review of data, including: the U.S. Coast Guard, Shell, Smit Salvage and Det Norske Veritas. These reports involve precise calculations; it is important to ensure the accuracy of any reports in order to develop the next steps for the Kulluk. At this time there is no firm date for completion of the damage assessment report.

•  Once the damage report is completed, the Kulluk and any plans to move the vessel will be evaluated before it is moved to its next location.

•  Water did enter some spaces of the vessel through damaged hatches. However, the water has been captured and is being safely stored in a compartment.

•  The damage discovered on the Kulluk is consistent with what is expected from a vessel of this type being on hard ground. The fuel tanks are intact.

•  Points of entry for water into the Kulluk are being sealed (i.e., windows and hatches). Additionally, tow brackets are being added for preparation for the next move.

Alaska blogger, Steve Aufrecht was just one of many who has been frustrated by the extended news blackout at Unified Command.  He has written several posts on the incident and is increasingly frustrated by his inability to find out anything of substance:

But they aren’t just mum about damage extent.  They are mum about everything.  At least at the news briefings there was a chance to ask questions to real people.  But the last one, to my knowledge, was January 5.

Aufrecht is a retired Professor Emeritus of Public Policy at the University of Alaska Anchorage, and the fact that he is this upset is significant.

Alaska’s leading maritime oil spill expert, retired University of Alaska Professor, Richard Steiner feels that if my Kodiak information on Shell’s Asia renovation and repair plans turns out to be accurate, Shell’s 2013 Alaska drilling season, perhaps even 2014′s, are non-starters.

Thursday, I discovered that Sen. Mark Begich’s proposed hearing (he’s chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Oceans, Atmosphere, Fisheries and Coast Guard) on the Kulluk and Shell’s readiness to drill off our shores will be held sometime in March.  I asked his office the following questions:

1. When will the hearing or hearings take place?

2. Where will they be?

3. Will witnesses be sworn in?

4. Do you plan on subpoenaing any documents, such as the Aiviq log book, correspondence and phone records between Shell and the Aiviq crew prior to departure from Dutch Harbor, or other important records?

5. Will the entire subcommittee participate?

Friday,  in Washington DC, a small number of pro-environment organizations held a congressional briefing on Shell’s 2012 string of screwups and near-disasters:

Environmentalists from Alaska are hoping to persuade Congressional staffers Shell Oil should not continue its drilling operation in the Arctic this summer.

The groups held a Congressional briefing on Friday.

Congressional briefings are free of the formalities and TV cameras of Congressional hearings. And they lack the members of Congress themselves.

And many in this town think that’s a good thing, because it’s the staffers who attend the briefings. And it’s the staffers who have the policy expertise. The briefing was organized by the office of California Democrat Barbara Boxer – she chairs the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee.

I suppose one aspect of Shell’s attempting to hide this as long as they can may be the impact such adverse news will have on the value of their stock share price.

I’ve seen a lot of poorly managed operations in Alaska over the years, but this clusterfuck (a term first used by my informant at the Arctic Challenger containment dome testing fiasco, several clusterfucks ago) clearly sets a new standard of haplessness, negligence, lies and coverups.

Photo by US Coast Guard, public domain