Kulluk update, Jan. 3

A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter delivers an emergency towing system to the salvage team on the deck of the conical drilling unit Kulluk. U.S. Coast Guard video by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.

ANCHORAGE — An International Bird Rescue response team has been on the ground in Alaska for several days now as part of the Kulluk Tow Incident response. The Kulluk, a conical drilling vessel operated by Royal Dutch Shell, ran aground off Sitkalidak Island late Monday night in high seas after unsuccessful attempts to secure the rig with multiple tows. Shell had activated our team prior to the vessel grounding.

The Kulluk has 143,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 12,000 gallons of other petroleum products onboard; there is no sign of oil sheen around the vessel according to latest reports.

More info via Incident Unified Command from late Wednesday regarding salvage operations and structural assessment:

A team of five salvage experts boarded the grounded drilling unit Kulluk earlier today to conduct a structural assessment to be used to finalize salvage plans, currently being developed by the Kulluk Tow Incident Unified Command.

The five-member team was lowered to the Kulluk by a U.S. Coast Guard helicopter at about 10:30 this morning. The assessment lasted about three hours. A helicopter safely hoisted the team from the drilling unit at about 1:30 p.m. The Coast Guard helicopter and crew also delivered a state-owned emergency towing system to the Kulluk, which will be used during salvage operations.

Efforts to place a team on-board the rig to conduct the assessment were put on hold due to severe weather conditions over the past several days. Calmer conditions this morning created a window that enabled the assessment to take place.

Command officials have launched a Flickr page for photos, view here.

We’ll keep you posted with further updates today from our team. Click here for more information on our response and preparedness capabilities.