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Waves damage top side of Shell' s grounded Alaska drilling rig

ANCHORANGE -- Salvage experts are continuing to assess potential damage to the Shell drilling rig grounded on the southeast shoreline of Sitkalidak Island. A company official could give no timeline for the vessel' s removal and could not say if the rig is seaworthy.

Speaking to reporters in a short teleconferenced news briefing in Anchorage, Shell Alaska operations manager Sean Churchfield outlined problems inspectors discovered during a three-hour visit to the rig:

• Waves have damaged the top side of the vessel.

• A "number" of watertight doors have been breached, causing water damage in the rig. Some of the doors have since been secured, Churchfield said.

• Emergency and service generators are damaged.

Whether the problems will delay efforts to move the crippled rig is unclear. Churchfield said Shell does not yet have a timeline for the salvage efforts. Asked if the rig is seaworthy, he said damage assessment continues and it is too early to say.

Churchfield joined other members of a private-and-government command team overseeing efforts to dislodge the rig.

Six salvage experts were on the deck of the rig, with more expected, Churchfield said. Authorities have found no sign of a fuel leak.

Coast Guard Capt. Paul Mehler said he has ordered a "marine casualty investigation" of the grounding. The results will be made public, he said. Churchfield did not answer a reporter' s question about Shell' s refusal to make public the results of its own investigation, saying only that the company would collaborate in the Coast Guard probe.

Mehler, commander for the Coast Guard' s Anchorage sector, did not directly answer a question about the greatest danger threatening the rig. Was it the rig breaking apart, a reporter asked?

Mehler said his first concern is the safety of people involved in the salvage operation.

Anchorage Daily News

01/04/2013

 

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