Salvage crews await weather as Shell's grounded Arctic drill rig sways in place
U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Paul Mehler said the Kulluk appears sound as of Tuesday afternoon, with no breach of hull and no discharge of fuel, lubricant or hydraulic fluid apparent from Coast Guard over-flights.
Mehler told reporters that the Kulluk grounding is now considered a salvage operation.
Mehler described the operation as dynamic, thanks to challenging weather battering the area. Multiple Coast Guard aircraft have been deployed to the area, one of which is carrying a salvage crew the Coast Guard hopes to deploy on the Kulluk as soon weather allows. Although the Kulluk is stable, it is moving back and forth as strong seas batter the drilling rig.
“It's aground; it's swaying, but it's not moving,” he said.
Steve Russell, the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation's on-scene coordinator, added that while the Kulluk is stable, it still poses a serious environmental threat.
Russell said the customized response plans are being drafted. However, what those plans could be are unclear. After delivering brief statements, officials took few questions from gathered members of the press, citing a need to return to the recovery effort. Another press conference is being planned for this evening, at which officials said more time will be given for questions.
And questions are mounting over whether Shell -- a Netherlands-based oil and gas giant -- cut corners as it has pursued an ambitious, multibillion-dollar drilling program in Alaska's far northern waters over the past seven years.