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Drill ship and tow vessels still battling Gulf of Alaska storm

Casey Grove
The tugboat Nanuq comes into Kodiak Harbor at Pier 2 in Kodiak on Friday, January 4, 21013.
Bob Hallinen
The tugboat AIVIQ sits at the dock at Pier 2 in the Kodiak harbor with a security guard manning the entrance to the dock on Friday, January 4, 21013.
Bob Hallinen
The tugboat Nanuq comes into Kodiak Harbor at Pier 2 in Kodiak on Friday, January 4, 21013.
Bob Hallinen
The harbor tugboat Brian T stands by as the tugboat Nanuq ties up at the Kodiak Harbor at Pier 2 in Kodiak on Friday, January 4, 21013.
Bob Hallinen
A semi drives down the highway with load of line on its way to be delivered to the tugboat AIVIQ at the dock at Pier 2 in the Kodiak harbor on Friday, January 4, 21013.
Bob Hallinen
The tugboat AIVIQ sits at the dock at Pier 2 in the Kodiak harbor as a seine boat passes by on Friday, January 4, 21013.
Bob Hallinen
A US Coast Guard helicopter sits on the tarmac at the Coast Guard base in Kodiak on Friday, January 4, 21013.
Bob Hallinen
The tugboat Nanuq backs in to the dock as the tugboat AIVIQ sits at the dock at Pier 2 in the Kodiak harbor on Friday, January 4, 21013.
Bob Hallinen
The tugboat AIVIQ sits at the dock at Pier 2 in the Kodiak harbor as a seine boat passes by on Friday, January 4, 21013.
Bob Hallinen
Three life rafts (two pictured) sit on the beach adjacent to the conical drilling unit Kulluk, 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2012. The Kulluk grounded after many efforts by tug vessel crews and Coast Guard crews to move the vessel to safe harbor during a winter storm during a tow from Dutch Harbor, Alaska to Everett, Wash. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Painter.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Painter
A life raft belonging to the conical drilling unit Kulluk, sits on the beach adjacent to the barge 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2012. The Kulluk grounded after many efforts by tug vessel crews and Coast Guard crews to move the vessel to safe harbor during a winter storm. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Painter.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Painter
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits grounded 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2012. The Kulluk grounded after many efforts by tug vessel crews and Coast Guard crews to move the vessel to safe harbor during a winter storm. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Painter.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Painter
Members of a salvage team prepare to depart Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter for another day of operations aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. The salvage team is continuing to survey the vessel for damage and work to develop salvage plans. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
Members of a salvage team prepare to depart Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter for another day of operations aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. The salvage team is continuing to survey the vessel for damage and work to develop salvage plans. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
Members of a salvage team prepare to depart Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter for another day of operations aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. The salvage team is continuing to survey the vessel for damage and work to develop salvage plans. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
Members of a salvage team prepare to depart Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter for another day of operations aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. The salvage team is continuing to survey the vessel for damage and work to develop salvage plans. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
A member of a salvage team prepares to depart Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter for another day of operations aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. The salvage team is continuing to survey the vessel for damage and work to develop salvage plans. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
Members of a salvage team listen to an aircraft operations briefing prior to departing Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter for another day of operations aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. The salvage team is continuing to survey the vessel for damage and work to develop salvage plans. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
Cmdr. Mark Vislay, an Mh-60 Jayhawk pilot and the Air Station operations officer, gives an aviation operations brief to the salvage team prior to departing Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, aboard an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter for another day of operations aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Thursday, Jan. 3, 2013. The salvage team is continuing to survey the vessel for damage and work to develop salvage plans. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
BOB HALLINEN /Anchorage Daily News In a driving rain tugboat Alert crewmember Mike Mueller, from Homer, feeds a fresh water line to a worker on the deck of the Alert at pier 2 in the Kodiak boat harbor on Wednesday, January 2, 2013. The Alert just docked in Kodiak after being part of the attempt to tow the Shell drill rig Kulluk to safety. Mueller said, "We really hated to let her go. We hung onto it as long as we could. We had 1800 feet of tow wire and a Prince William Sound Tow Package." 130102
Bob Hallinen
BOB HALLINEN /Anchorage Daily News Tanner crap pots are loaded onto the deck of skipper/wwner Brad Blondin's fishing vessel My Beauty in the Kodiak boat harbor on Wednesday, January 2, 2013. Blondin is getting ready for a tanner crab opening east of Kodiak Island on January 15th. Blondin said, “That is about where we crab fish”, referring to the grounding of the Shell drill rig. “If it were to start leaking diesel I hope it won’t stop us from crab fishing.” 130102
Bob Hallinen
A salvage team aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk moves an emergency towing system delivered the Kulluk by a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.
Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. Salvage crews are working to remove the Kulluk from the beach. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.
Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh
The unified command for the Kulluk response receives a mission overview from the pilots of an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter at Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, prior to an overflight of the conical drilling unit Kulluk Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
The salvage team returns to Air Station Kodiak from work aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
The salvage team returns to Air Station Kodiak from work aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
The unified command for the Kulluk response returns to Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, aboard an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter, from an overflight of the conical drilling unit Kulluk Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg
The unified command for the Kulluk response prepares to depart aboard an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter at Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, prior to an overflight of the conical drilling unit Kulluk Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg
The unified command for the Kulluk response receives a mission breifing from the pilots of an MH-65 Dolphin helicopter at Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, prior to an overflight of the conical drilling unit Kulluk Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg
The emergency towing system hangs on a pendant below an Air Station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter for delivery to the conical drilling unit Kulluk Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.
Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh
The unified command returns to Kodiak aboard an Air Station Kodiak MH-65 Dolphin helicopter following an overflight of the conical drilling unit Kulluk Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.
Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. Salvage crews are working to remove the Kulluk from the beach. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.
Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. Salvage crews are working to remove the Kulluk from the beach. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.
Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh
A salvage team aboard the conical drilling unit Kulluk wraps up lines from an emergency towing system delivered by a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. The Kulluk is located 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, on the shore of Sitkalidak Island. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh.
Petty Officer 1st Class Travis Marsh
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground on the southeast shore of Sitkalidak Island about 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, in 40 mph winds and 20-foot seas Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. The Kulluk grounded following many efforts by tug and Coast Guard crews to tow the vessel to a safe harbor when it was beset by winter storm weather during a tow from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to Everett, Wash.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
Coast Guard Petty Officer 1st Class Francis Schiano, a marine science technician at Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, works with Svetlana Kiriako, a Shell employee, as they review information about response vessel locations and assignments at the Unified Command response center in Anchorage, Alaska, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. Coast Guard members from across the state and the country are coordinating response efforts with members of the State of Alaska, local communities and industry representatives to ensure a safe response to the grounded conical drilling unit Kulluk off shore of Sitkalidak Island more than 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City.
Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley
Responders from federal, state, local, tribal and industry work together at the Unified Command center in Anchorage, Alaska, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. Response crews in Anchorage are coordinating efforts with crews deployed in Kodiak and offshore of Sitkalidak Island during the ongoing response to the grounding of the conical drilling unit Kulluk.
Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley
Incident responders work together across maps and satellite images at the Unified Command center in Anchorage, Alaska, Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013. Several hundred response experts have gathered together in Anchorage to coordinate response efforts and ensure the safety of operations during the ongoing response to the grounded conical drilling unit Kulluk off shore of Sitkalidak Island more than 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City.
Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground on the southeast shore of Sitkalidak Island about 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, in 40 mph winds and 20-foot seas Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. The Kulluk grounded following many efforts by tug and Coast Guard crews to tow the vessel to a safe harbor when it was beset by winter storm weather during a tow from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to Everett, Wash.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, commander, 17th Coast Guard District and D17 Incident Management Team commander, observes the conical drilling unit Kulluk from an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter during a second overflight Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. The Kulluk grounded on the southeast shore of Sitkalidak Island Monday night.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, Seventeenth Coast Guard District Commander, Capt. Paul Mehler, Federal On Scene Coordinator for the Kulluk Tow Incident and Sean Churchfield, Shell Incident Commander talk with Lisa Murkowski, U.S. Senator for the State of Alaska, about current operations and incident command functions at the Kulluk Tow Incident Command Post at the Anchorage Marriott Downtown hotel Tuesday Jan. 1, 2013 in Anchorage.
Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew Schofield
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground on the southeast shore of Sitkalidak Island about 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, in 40 mph winds and 20-foot seas Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. The Kulluk grounded following many efforts by tug and Coast Guard crews to tow the vessel to a safe harbor when it was beset by winter storm weather during a tow from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to Everett, Wash.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
The conical drilling unit Kulluk sits aground on the southeast shore of Sitkalidak Island about 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, in 40 mph winds and 20-foot seas Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. The Kulluk grounded following many efforts by tug and Coast Guard crews to tow the vessel to a safe harbor when it was beset by winter storm weather during a tow from Dutch Harbor, Alaska, to Everett, Wash.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
Members of a DonJon-SMIT salvage team prepare their gear at Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2013. The salvage team conducted an aerial survey of the conical drilling unit Kulluk 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, from a Coast Guard helicopter.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Paul Mehler III speaks at a Unified Command press conference Tuesday afternoon Jan. 1, 2013 at the Anchorage Marriott Downtown hotel.
Erik Hill
Waves crash over the mobile offshore drilling unit Kulluk where it sits aground on the southeast side of Sitkalidak Island, Alaska, Jan. 1, 2013. A Unified Command, consisting of the Coast Guard, federal, state, local and tribal partners and industry representatives was established in response to the grounding.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg
From left Tommy Travis of Noble Drilling Corporation, Sean Churchfield of Shell Alaska, U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Paul Mehler III and Steve Russell of the state Dept. of Environmental Conservation answer a few questions at a Unified Command press conference Tuesday afternoon Jan. 1, 2013 at the Anchorage Marriott Downtown hotel.
Erik Hill
Sean Churchfield of Shell Alaska speaks at a Unified Command press conference Tuesday afternoon Jan. 1, 2013 at the Anchorage Marriott Downtown hotel. Behind him is a map of Kodiak Island, with a blue pin marking the site of the Kulluk grounding.
Erik Hill
Sean Churchfield of Shell Alaska, left, speaks as U.S. Coast Guard Capt. Paul Mehler III listens at a Unified Command press conference Tuesday afternoon Jan. 1, 2013 at the Anchorage Marriott Downtown hotel.
Erik Hill
A pin marks the site of the Kulluk grounding on a map displayed at a Unified Command press conference Monday evening Dec. 31, 2012 at the Anchorage Marriott Downtown hotel.
Erik Hill
U.S. Coast Guard Commander Shane Montoya addresses questions at a Unified Command press conference following the grounding of the Kulluk drilling rig Monday evening Dec. 31, 2012 at the Anchorage Marriott Downtown hotel.
Erik Hill
A Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak MH-65 Jayhawk helicopter crew delivers personnel to the conical drilling unit Kulluk, southeast of Kodiak, Alaska, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. Response crews have been fighting severe weather in the Gulf of Alaska while working with the Kulluk and its tow vessel Aiviq.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg
The tow vessel Aiviq (left) and the tug Alert tow the conical drilling unit Kulluk through rough seas southeast of Kodiak, Alaska, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. Response crews have been fighting severe weather in the Gulf of Alaska while working with the Kulluk and its tow vessel Aiviq.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan
The Coast Guard Cutter SPAR takes water over the bow while underway in the vicinity of the mobile drilling unit Kulluk in 23 mph winds and 4-foot seas more than 40 miles south of Kodiak City, Alaska, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. The SPAR, a 225-foot buoy tender homeport in Kodiak, was on stand by to assist the tugs and the Kulluk for the past several days.
Petty Officer 3rd Class Nicolas Santos
Four technicians return to Air Station Kodiak after visiting the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 52 miles south of Kodiak Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. The MH-60 Jayhawk aircrew hoisted the technicians from the Kulluk in 63 mph winds and 20 to 30-foot seas.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew returns to Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, with four technicians from the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 52 miles south of Kodiak Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. The technicians were hoisted to the Kulluk to assess the vessel and the gear aboard.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
Cmdr. John Hollingsworth, engineering officer Air Station Kodiak, discusses handheld radio operatins with salvage technicians at the air station in Kodiak, Alaska, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. An air station Kodiak MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew safely delivered the four technicians to the Kulluk 46 miles south of Kodiak City.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew discusses upcoming hoist operations at the air station in Kodiak, Alaska, prior to departure Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. The aircrew safely delivered four slavage technicians to the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 46 miles south of Kodiak City.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
Petty Officer 2nd Class Mike Wallace, an aviation maintenance technician and flight mechanic at Air Station Kodiak, gives four salvage technicians a safety brief in a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter at the air station in Kodiak, Alaska, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. The salvage team was safely delivered to the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 46 miles south of Kodiak City by a Jayhawk aircrew.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
Four members of a salvage team get geared up at Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, to be delivered by Coast Guard helicopter to the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 46 miles south of Kodiak City, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. The salvage team was safely delivered to the Kulluk to conduct assessments of the vessel and the gear aboard.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
Salvage technicians board an MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter at Air Station Kodiak in Kodiak, Alaska, for delivery to the mobile drilling unit Kulluk Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. The four technicians were safely hoisted to the Kulluk 46 miles south of Kodiak in 23 mph winds and 4-foot seas.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
An emergency towing system, rigged for delivery by Coast Guard helicopter, sits on deck at Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, Alaska, Monday, Dec. 31, 2012. The ETS is availble for use by response crews and can be delivered by helicopter or vessel to a vessel of opportunity or a tug to provide towing equipment in an emergency. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis
The mobile drilling unit Kulluk is towed by the tugs Aiviq and Nanuq in 29 mph winds and 20-foot seas 116 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. The 18 crewmembers of the Kulluk were successfully hoisted from the vessel Saturday by Coast Guard helicopter crews from Air Station Kodiak.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Usher
A Coast Guard HC-130 Hercules aircraft from Air Station Kodiak overflies the tugs Aiviq and Nanuq tandem towing the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 116 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. The tug Alert from Prince William Sound and the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley from Kodiak are en route to assist.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Usher
The tugs Aiviq and Nanuq tow tandem tow the mobile driling unit Kulluk 116 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. The tugs are attempting to tow the Kulluk to a sheltered area but weather conditions, including 29 mph winds and 20-foot seas, have prevented them from taking the necessary northernly course.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Usher
The tug Aiviq travels at just under 2 mph with the mobile drilling unit Kulluk in tow 116 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Sunday, Dec. 30, 2012. The Aiviq is tandem towing the Kulluk with the tug Nanuq in 29 mph winds and 20-foot seas limiting their maximum speed, so they can safely control the tow.
Petty Officer 2nd Class Chris Usher
Crewmembers of the mobile drilling unit Kulluk arrive safely at Air Station Kodiak after being airlifted by a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from the vessel 80 miles southwest of Kodiak, Saturday, Dec. 28, 2012. A total of 18 crewmembers of the mobile drilling unit were airlifted to safety after they suffered issues and setbacks with the tug and tow. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan Klingenberg.
Jonathan Klingenberg.
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak conducts a basket hoist of parts to the tug Aiviq crew 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The Coast Guard conducted the deivery of parts to the tug so they could make repairs and regain full power as they tow the mobile drilling unit Kulluk. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis
The tug Nanuq and the tug Aiviq (not pictured) tow the mobile drilling unit Kulluk in 15 to 20-foot seas 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The tug Aiviq lost the initial tow Thursday and suffered several engine failures prompting the deployment of response assets by the Coast Guard and Royal Dutch Shell. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis
The tugs Aiviq and Nanuq tow the mobile drilling unit Kulluk while a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Kodiak delivers parts to the tug Aiviq crew so they can make engine repairs while underway 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The tug lost the initial tow Thursday and suffered several engine failures prompting the deployment of response assets by the Coast Guard and Royal Dutch Shell. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak delivers mechanical parts to the tug Aiviq crew while underway 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The Aiviq suffered several engine failures while towing the mobile drilling unit Kulluk and required parts to conduct repairs. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak conducts hoists of the first six of 18 crewmen from the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The Coast Guard was prompted to rescue the crew of the Kulluk after there were problems with the tow Thursday and the weather conditions began to deteriorate. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak conducts hoists of the first six of 18 crewmen from the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The Coast Guard was prompted to rescue the crew of the Kulluk after there were porblems with the tow Friday and the weather conditions began to deteriorate. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak conducts hoists of the first six of 18 crewmen from the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The tug Aiviq suffered problems towing the Kulluk Thursday prompting the Coast Guard to deploy cutters and aircraft to while Royal Dutch Shell dispatched additiona tugs. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak conducts hoists of the second of 18 crewmen from the mobile drilling unit Kulluk in 15 to 20-foot seas 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The Coast Guard was prompted to rescue the crew of the Kulluk after there were porblems with the tow Thursday and the weather conditions began to deteriorate. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis
A Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crew from Air Station Kodiak conducts the 13th hoist of 18 crewmen from the mobile drilling unit Kulluk 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The tug Aiviq suffered problems towing the Kulluk Thursday prompting the Coast Guard to deploy cutters and aircraft to while Royal Dutch Shell dispatched additiona tugs. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis
The tugs Aiviq and Nanuq tow the mobile drilling unit Kulluk while a Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Kodiak hoists the 14 membr of the Kulluk's 18 member crew 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska, Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012. The tug lost the initial tow Thursday and suffered several engine failures prompting the deployment of response assets by the Coast Guard and Royal Dutch Shell. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis.
Sara Francis

Update, 2:30 p.m.:

The Coast Guard says the crews of two towing vessels attached to a Shell drill ship continue to battle a fierce storm in the Gulf of Alaska.

The crews remain stationed with the drill rig Kulluk Sunday 20 miles from Alaska's Kodiak Island as they wait in rough seas for another tug boat to arrive. The Coast Guard says the goal is to tow the Kulluk to a safe harbor and determine the next step.

All 18 crew members on the Kulluk were safely evacuated Saturday from the drill ship, which has no propulsion system of its own.

Shell says two minor injuries on one towing vessel have been reported.

The Kulluk was being towed Thursday from Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands to Seattle when problems arose.

-- Associated Press

------------------

Original story:

Two powerful ships towed a round Shell drilling vessel through rough water south of Kodiak Island late Saturday and into the Gulf of Alaska with the hopes of weathering a storm in the open ocean before heading for a safe harbor.

The new course away from land for the tiny flotilla represented a change of plans from Friday, when officials hoped the vessels could reach protected waters by Saturday afternoon. The still-unresolved drama that began unfolding Thursday is just the latest in a series of mishaps for Royal Dutch Shell in its offshore drilling efforts in the Arctic this year.

In a series of failures that began Thursday, the 360-foot Aiviq, owned by Edison Chouest of Louisiana and under contract to Shell, briefly lost its towline with the $290 million, 266-foot-wide Kulluk, then suffered a complete shutdown of its four engines early Friday. Another Shell-contracted tugboat, the Guardsman, arrived about 2 p.m. Friday and connected to the Kulluk and Aiviq.

The Kulluck's cone shape was designed for handling Arctic ice while anchored at a drilling site, but under tow in a fierce North Pacific storm, it was tossing and turning perilously. About 9 p.m. Friday, Shell contacted the Coast Guard and asked for help in removing the crew "due to safety concerns for the personnel on board in the rolling and pitching vessel in heavy seas," the Coast Guard said.

The first efforts failed because of weather, but by Saturday afternoon two Coast Guard MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters had removed the Kulluk's 18-person crew and flown them to Kodiak, Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer David Mosley said. (Coast Guard video of the Kulluk evacuation here.)

"It's precautionary measure. They weren't in any immediate danger," Mosley said. "As this continued to unfold, they just wanted to mitigate any potential issues with that crew onboard."

Coast Guard helicopters were also able to deliver a ton of engine parts and technicians to the Aiviq, and the ship's crew had two of its four engines up and running by Saturday morning, Shell said.

 

What started as 20-foot seas and 40 mph wind built to 35-foot seas and gusts to more than 50 mph, the Coast Guard said.

The weather and the combined weight of the Kulluk and Aiviq were too much for the tugboat Guardsman, which was unable to stop the vessels from drifting. By 5:30 a.m. Saturday, its towline had also broken free, the Coast Guard said. Saturday morning, the Kulluk was about 27 miles from the Trinity Islands and drifting at a rate that would have had it hitting the islands in as little as 12 hours, Mosley told the Associated Press.

"We don't want it to go aground," he said. "When a vessel goes aground, it's directly played upon by the waves hitting it and having it hit something solid."

In what Shell spokesman Curtis Smith described as "cascading assets into the theater," another Shell-contracted ship, the Nanuq, had been sent from Seward at the first sign of trouble. It arrived Saturday morning. The Aiviq soon had all four of its engines running, and with the Nanuq's help, was towing the Kulluk farther out to sea to the southeast late Saturday, Smith said. The plan was to avoid more bad weather and the worst-case scenario that the vessels could again drift toward land, he said.

A third tugboat, the Alert, was en route Saturday from Prince William Sound, the Coast Guard said. The Alert first arrived in Valdez in 2000 as part of the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co.'s disaster response system. The Coast Guard said that of the vessels responding to the emergency, only the Aiviq and the Alert were capable of towing the Kulluk.

"We're still looking at options for safe harbor, but we're going to wait out some predicted bad weather before making a run to the north," Smith said. "We feel like the situation has stabilized and the tow is secure, but it's critical that we remain focused on 'what if?' "

New details of the earlier wrangling to get the Aiviq and Kulluk under control also emerged Saturday.

The Aiviq first ran into trouble Thursday while towing the Kulluk from Dutch Harbor to Everett, Wash., where it was to receive off-season maintenance, according to Shell. The vessels were about 50 miles south of Kodiak Island and east of the Trinity Islands, fighting the bucking seas, when a buckle on the towline connecting them broke, Smith said. The Aiviq's crew attached an emergency towline to the Kulluk, but then the Aiviq's four engines failed, likely fouled by bad fuel, Smith said.

Shell said it doesn't know why the towline broke, how the Aiviq's fuel was contaminated, and if the two problems were related.

"That's something we'll have to investigate once this incident is over," Smith said.

The Alex Haley, a Coast Guard cutter on patrol in the Gulf, arrived to help and connected a towline to the stricken vessels early Friday, the Coast Guard said in a statement. At that point, the wind was blowing 40 mph, and the seas were 35 feet and building, the Coast Guard said.

"The heavy seas, strong winds, and sheer mass of both Aiviq and Kulluk created enormous challenges for Alex Haley to establish and maintain the tow," the Coast Guard statement said. "At approximately 6:30 a.m. the crew of the Alex Haley reported that the towline had parted and become entangled in the ship's port propeller."

The cutter was ordered to return to Kodiak, and the Coast Guard launched two others: the Hickory, from Homer, and the Spar, from Kodiak, said Mosley, with the Coast Guard.

A unified command was assembled Friday, bringing together Shell, the Coast Guard, Edison Chouest, the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Kodiak Borough.

 

Reach Casey Grove at casey.grove@adn.com or 257-4589.

 

 

Video of Coast Guard evacuation of Kulluk crew
By CASEY GROVE
casey.grove@adn.com