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Federal Investigators Blame Shell for Alaska Drill-Ship Accident

NTSB says Shell was at fault due to poor planning, bad judgment

Alaska drill-ship
The Kulluk’s tow line broke and the ship drifted away and ran aground near Kodiak Island off Alaska’s southwest coast. PHOTO: U.S. COAST GUARD

Federal investigators have blamed Royal Dutch Shell Plc and its contractors for the December 2012 shipwreck of a drill-ship off the coast of Alaska.

The wrecked ship, named the Kulluk, was being towed by another ship, the Aiviq, from Alaska to Seattle when the ships ran into trouble amid a rough winter storm and had to be rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard.

After completing an investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board concluded that while no single error or mechanical failure caused the accident, Shell was at fault due to poor planning and bad judgment, particularly with regard to Alaska’s severe winter weather, according to a new report.

The NTSB study comes as Shell is preparing two drill ships and their crews to travel to Alaskan waters this summer to explore for oil.

Shell has spoken with regulators about the findings and implemented lessons learned from 2012, said Curtis Smith, a company spokesman.

In the summer and fall of 2012 Shell brought three ships to Alaska to drill exploratory oil wells in the Chukchi Sea. On the way to the drill site, one ship, the Noble Discoverer, had equipment problems that needed repairs and caused delays. On the voyage back from Alaska, the Kulluk and the Aiviq both had equipment problems.

The Coast Guard rescued 18 crew members from the Kulluk and attempted to tow it to safety. Rough seas and high winds hampered the effort, and when the Kulluk’s tow line broke, the ship drifted away and ran aground near Kodiak Island off Alaska’s southwest coast.

Shell’s contractors included Noble Corp., which pleaded guilty last December to federal felony offenses and agreed to pay a $12 million fine for the incident involving the Noble Discoverer.

Corrections & Amplifications:
Noble Corp. pleaded guilty to federal felony offenses and agreed to pay a $12 million fine. An earlier version of this article incorrectly said Shell pleaded guilty last December to eight felony offenses and agreed to pay a $12 million fine.

The Original posted by Cassandra Sweet / The Wall Street Journal 

 

 

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