LONDON Jan 7 A tow line has been attached to
the Shell oil drilling rig grounded off an Alaska island since a
New Years Eve storm, meaning that officials will be able to
begin a process to move the vessel to more sheltered waters on
According to a release on the website of the response team
which is dealing with the Kulluk incident, the main tow line was
attached on Sunday at 4pm Alaska time (0100 GMT), after rough
weather prevented a connection being made on Saturday.
"All elements are in place for towing operations to proceed.
The proposed plan is that the Kulluk will be moved from its
current grounded position in Ocean Bay to Kiliuda Bay, about 30
miles north," the Kulluk response website said.
The stricken Kulluk oil rig is owned by Royal Dutch Shell
and is a vital part of its controversial Arctic oil
drilling program, which has encountered several problems.
Kiliuda Bay is a sheltered site, previously designated as a
refuge for disabled vessels, where experts plan to make a better
assessment of the Kulluk's sea worthiness.
The salvage master has the discretion to start towing the
rig earlier should favourable conditions occur during the night,
the Kulluk response website added.
The Kulluk was on its way south for the winter and had been
towed east from the Beaufort Sea, and then south through the
Bering Strait that separates the northernmost U.S. state from
Siberia, when the four-day battle to keep it off the rocks began
on Dec. 31.
The 30-year-old Kulluk is operated by Noble Corp and
was refitted by Shell for its summer 2012 drilling expedition in
the Beaufort Sea off northern Alaska.
Shell spent $4.5 billion preparing for extraction activities
there and in the Chukchi Sea further east, but has yet to
complete a single well.
Headlines that raise questions about the wisdom of drilling
so far north in such an environmentally delicate and technically
challenging place were not expected so early in 2013, given that
activity stopped for the season two months ago.