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Update #45: Kulluk Response Unified Command to stand down

Feb. 13, 2013
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The Unified Command met its objectives for the Kulluk response and will stand down Wednesday afternoon.

“Agency representatives will return to their normal roles and responsibilities," said Capt. Paul Mehler III, the Coast Guard Federal On-Scene Coordinator. “The Coast Guard will continue to monitor the activities involved in prepping the Kulluk for movement and I will lift the Captain of the Port order once all the requirements have been met."

“Our objectives for the duration of this response have been to ensure the safety of all responders involved, protect the environment, and prepare the Kulluk for its next port. Thanks to the hard work and professionalism of all those involved in this extraordinary effort, we have achieved these goals,” said Sean Churchfield, Shell Incident Commander. “I want to thank all of the individuals involved in the recovery effort for their dedication to ensuring a successful outcome.”

After weeks of thorough assessment, analysis and on board activity, Shell confirmed that the Kulluk is safe to tow out of Kiliuda Bay. This decision is based on independent review by Det Norske Veritas (DNV) validating that the Kulluk’s structural integrity and stability, post grounding, is sound for towing. Shell has received DNV Class Certification and Flag State approval for the Kulluk. As part of the preparations for the tow, an independent warranty surveyor will approve the towing vessels and equipment arrangements and witness the connection of the tugs to the Kulluk. (To learn more, read the fact sheet.)

The vessel will be towed to Dutch Harbor where a purpose-built dock for the Kulluk’s conical shape is situated. This will allow for heightened safety as the Kulluk is prepared for a dry-tow transit to Asia, where it will undergo repairs.  The Kulluk will be towed by  three ocean-going tugs to Dutch Harbor and accompanied by the response vessel Nanuq.  The transit time is approximately 10 days.

The completion of the damage assessment revealed that the inner hull of the Kulluk was not breached and that all fuel tanks remain intact.  The outer hull did receive damage as expected with a vessel being aground during adverse weather.  In addition, the Kulluk encountered water damage to its superstructure which resulted in damage to technical equipment and a breach of windows and hatches. Over the past few weeks, all damaged windows and hatches on the Kulluk’s main deck have been secured, and where necessary, temporary steel structures have been put in place to ensure that the vessel is weather tight and prepared for the tow.

Plans continue for the clean-up of the lifeboat debris on Sitkalidak Island. Shell is working with the Old Harbor Native Corporation who will be overseeing the teams working to clear related debris from the area, but due to the extreme challenges of the terrain, this activity will continue for some time so it can be carried out safely.

“The State determined that the command objectives established on day one have been achieved and therefore that it is appropriate to stand down the Unified Command. The State will continue to work with Shell, Coast Guard and stakeholders to ensure that the debris on our Kodiak beaches is recovered,” said State On-scene Coordinator Steve Russell. “We will also be available to those with questions or concerns about this response.”

“Throughout this response, our federal, state, local and tribal partners have remained dedicated to ensuring the safety of Alaska’s maritime communities and environment,” said Mehler.

During the peak of the response, more than 750 dedicated and hard-working individuals from all over the world worked to bring the recovery to a safe conclusion.