US & Canada

Kulluk: Shell drill rig towed to safety in Alaskan bay

Kulluk oil drilling rig aground on Sitkalidak Island on Sunday
Image caption The 30-year-old but refurbished Kulluk was grounded during strong storms

A Shell oil rig that ran aground on New Year's Eve near an Alaskan island has been towed to safety in a nearby bay.

The Kulluk rig reached its anchoring point in Kiliuda Bay, 30 miles (48km) away, after a 12-hour journey.

The US Coast Guard says there is no sign of any leakage of the 155,000 gallons (590,000 litres) of oil products it is carrying.

The rig was returning from the Beaufort Sea to Seattle when the towing vessel lost power and its line to the rig.

On Monday, the Kulluk was towed from Sitkalidak Island, where it ran aground, by the Aiviq, the same vessel that last month was towing it south for winter maintenance.

The rig was pulled at about 4mph (6km/h) through seas reportedly as high as 15ft (4.9m).

Troubled drill season

Martin Padilla, incident commander for the Kulluk responders, told Reuters they would "continue to remain cautious while we assess the Kulluk's condition".

"We will not move forward to the next phase until we are confident that we can safely transport the vessel."

Shell has said that the design of the Kulluk - with fuel tanks isolated in the centre of the vessel and encased in heavy steel - makes a significant spill unlikely.

But environmentalists have said the incident illustrates the risk of drilling for oil in a fragile region.

The rig ran aground amid a controversial and error-prone Arctic drilling season for Shell.

Earlier in the winter, another ship in Shell's oil fleet, the Discoverer, failed to meet US air standards and nearly ran aground in the Aleutian port of Dutch Harbor.

Shell has vowed to fix the issues before the summer drilling season begins.

A US House committee has asked the Coast Guard and the Department of the Interior to investigate the Kulluk incident.

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Media captionFootage showed rescue teams dropping supplies onto the stranded rig last week

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