Kulluk runs aground in Alaska: International Bird Rescue part of 250+ person response team

ANCHORAGE — International Bird Rescue is working with a response team of more than 250 people after the Shell Oil drilling vessel Kulluk grounded late Monday in high seas near Alaska’s Kodiak Island.

Here are the latest updates from the incident’s Unified Command:

The Unified Command reports that Kulluk grounded at approximately 9 p.m., Alaska time on the southeast side of Sitkalidak Island. The crew of the tug Alert was ordered to separate from the Kulluk at 8:15 p.m. to maintain the safety of the nine crewmembers aboard the vessel.

“The extreme weather conditions and high seas continue to be a challenge. We have more than 250 people actively involved in the response efforts,” said Susan Childs, Incident Commander, Shell. “Our priority right now is maintaining the safety of our response personnel and evaluating next steps.” …

There is reportedly up to 150,000 gallons of ultra-low sulpher diesel on board the Kulluk and roughly 12,000 gallons of combined lube oil and hydraulic fluid. The condition of the vessel has not yet been confirmed and overflights are scheduled pending weather conditions. Unified Command, using a U.S. Coast Guard aircraft, plans to conduct a survey to assess the situation at first light. A response team will be deployed when it is safe to do so.

The Unified Command further reported early Tuesday:

  • The U.S. Coast Guard helicopter overflight detected no visible sheen.
  • There are no residents on Sitkalidak Island. The nearest town is Old Harbor, which is located on Kodiak Island.
  • More than 250 people are actively involved in the response efforts.
  • There have been three minor injuries associated with the incident. All personnel have returned to duty.

As we reported Sunday on this blog, a four-person senior spill response team from International Bird Rescue had earlier been activated to work with Unified Command officials on a wildlife plan in the event of a spill. “We are very pleased that Shell is being proactive about any potential impacts to wildlife by having us on site to plan and prepare,” International Bird Rescue director Jay Holcomb said.

We will post updates to this blog as they come in.

Update @ 1pm PST: Unified Command for the Kulluk Tow Incident will hold a news briefing at 3 p.m. Pacific Time with updates on the situation.

Update @ 4:45 PST: KTUU will stream live the news briefing here.

Unified Command has set up a new Twitter account with updates @kullukresponse.

The Kulluk vessel on the shore of Sitkalidak Island below (photo credit: Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg — U.S. Coast Guard)

International Bird Rescue has extensive oil spill response experience in Alaska, including the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill, where staff spent six months managing three bird centers and two search-and-collection programs. In October, International Bird Rescue responded to oiled wildlife found on Alaska’s St. Lawrence Island and rehabilitated at our Alaska Wildlife Response Center in Anchorage.

During the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, International Bird Rescue co-managed oiled bird rehabilitation centers in four states as part of a large-scale response to the incident that involved federal and state agencies, industry and non-governmental organizations.

Click on the map pins below for more information on International Bird Rescue spill response efforts in Alaska from 1989-present:

View International Bird Rescue: Historical spill response efforts in Alaska in a larger map