Updates on Kulluk Tow Incident

U.S. Coast Guard flyover video via Anchorage Daily News

ANCHORAGE — International Bird Rescue’s senior response team remains mobilized as part of a nearly 600-person team after the conical drilling unit Kulluk ran aground on Sitkalidak Island on Dec. 31.

Flyovers by the U.S. Coast Guard Tuesday showed no signs of oil sheen surrounding the Shell-operated vessel, which is carrying 143,000 gallons of diesel fuel (there is no crude oil on the vessel).

In news briefings on Tuesday afternoon, Unified Command officials said the Kulluk is grounded but stable just off Sitkalidak. Unified Command comprises the U.S. Coast Guard, Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, Noble Drilling (owner of the Kulluk), and Shell.

Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska visited Unified Command center Tuesday and was briefed on the incident. “The senator’s visit to the command post is encouraging to response personnel and our efforts to resolve this incident,” Steve Russell, state on-scene coordinator with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, said in a statement. “With the Kulluk grounding within State waters, we will closely monitor the recovery of the rig with the goal of little to no environmental impact.”

We’ll keep you posted on updates as they happen today. You can also stay up-to-date via Twitter @intbirdrescue. The official Twitter account for the Kulluk Tow Response is @kullukresponse.

Update @ 10:30 a.m. PST: Unified Command released the following information regarding additional flyovers of Kulluk:

The Unified Command plans multiple flyovers today to assess the condition of the Conical Drill Unit (CDU) Kulluk that remains grounded but stable near Sitkalidak Island located on the north edge of Ocean Bay.

Once conditions are deemed safe, Unified Command intends to place an assessment team on the Kulluk to further evaluate the vessel’s condition.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) instituted a Temporary Flight Restriction, and the U.S. Coast Guard cutter Alex Haley is maintaining a safety zone of one nautical mile around the Kulluk this morning. Both restrictions were put in place to ensure the safety of response personnel, as well as local mariners and aviation pilots in the area.

The Kulluk is upright and stable, and the Coast Guard flight crew’s aerial assessment Jan. 1, 2013 found no signs of environmental impact.

Map credit: Unified Command