After almost two months, the Unified Command for the Kulluk response decided to stand down Wednesday afternoon. The Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig had been under tow across the Gulf of Alaska when it broke free during a storm and ran hard aground on Sitkalidak Island, near Old Harbor, on New Year’s Eve. Since then, Unified Command worked to ensure the safety of all responders, protect the environment and provide updates on the Kulluk’s condition.
In an email, the UC said the vessel will be towed to Dutch Harbor. The Coast Guard will continue to monitor the Kulluk until that move. During the transport to Dutch Harbor, the rig will be accompanied by three ocean-going tugs and an additional response vessel. Once there, the rig will be prepared for a dry-tow to Asia for repairs. The email said the decision to move the Kulluk from its current location in Kiliuda Bay came after the completed damage assessment revealed no damage to the rig’s inner hull and fuel tanks were intact. Any damage to the vessel has been repaired in the last few weeks and the vessel has been sealed for water and weather tightness. The journey to Dutch Harbor is expected to take up to 10 days and the exact date for departure is unknown.
The UC said clean-up of the remaining debris on Sitkalidak Island will continue. The email said Shell will work with the Old Harbor Native corporation to carry out the removal safely.
In general, the UC said more than 750 individuals from around the world responded to the Kulluk’s grounding.