Shell confirmed this week that Kulluk struck ground off western Alaskan after it broke loose from its tow while en route to Seattle for maintenance. There was no threat of oil spilling from the vessel, the company said.
Shell said rough seas prevented initial salvage operations, though the U.S. Coast Guard was able to lower a crew onto the vessel by helicopter. The company said the team spent several hours on Kulluk and confirmed the vessel was firmly ground and stable.
"The team also confirmed there are no signs of environmental impact and there has been no leakage of the low-sulfur diesel fuel or hydraulic fluid stored in strong tanks on board the vessel," the company said in an incident response statement.
Shell's work in the arctic waters of Alaska was complicated by a series of equipment issues and weather delays. Environmental groups said the latest accident is a sign that oil and gas exploration in the area is a high-risk activity.
"It claims to have a world-class arctic program in place to deal with any accidents, but the running aground of the Kulluk again shows how utterly incapable Shell is of operating safely in one of the planet's most remote and extreme environments," stated advocacy group Greenpeace.