Effort under way to move beached oil rig

Jan. 3, 2013 at 4:06 PM
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SEATTLE, Jan. 3 (UPI) -- Efforts are under way to salvage a beached oil rig in the waters off Alaska, maritime officials said Thursday.

The massive mobile Kulluk oil rig, owned by Shell, beached after a tow line snapped in a raging storm while it was being hauled to Seattle for maintenance. Veteran sailors questioned whether it was wise to attempt towing the buoy-shaped rig that towers 230 feet over the ocean's surface in January, a time where fierce weather is commonplace in the north Pacific, the Seattle Times said.

Shell officials said weather models showed a positive two-week window for the tow and pointed to a Coast Guard review that gave them the go-ahead. They told the Times a series of unforeseen mechanical problems with one of the two tugboats was primarily to blame.

The rig is beached off Alaska's Sitkalikdak Island. It contains 143,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 12,000 gallons of lubricant, though the hull of the rig has not been breached.

Salvage workers from the Dutch company Smit Salvage have arrived at the rig and are inspecting it for leaks prior to developing a plan to dislodge it, the Anchorage Daily News said. No immediate leaks were found, but weather prevented the team from completing a full inspection, a Coast Guard official said.

"What we wanted to know immediately was, were any of the fuel tanks breached, and what we got from that initial report, was no. However there were other voids that they felt they had concern," Coast Guard Capt. Paul Mehler said.

He added a plan to dislodge the rig is still likely weeks away.

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