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

1/4/2013

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

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