Thursday, February 14, 2013

Kulluk Unified Command Final Update #45

I learned about the official announcement that the Kulluk and the Noble Discoverer - the two oil rigs that Shell had working in the Arctic last year - were being sent to Asia for extensive work from the New York Times and the Anchorage Daily News, but NOT from an email from the Kulluk Unified Command.  The Unified Command's last Update, number 44, was posted January 30.  So  I decided to write my own Update #45.  

"Update #45: Kulluk continues to remain stable – engineering analysis complete

Unified Command continues to oversee preparations for the next steps in the Kulluk embarrassment. Multiple entities remain involved including: the U.S. Coast Guard, Shell, the State of Alaska, Smit Salvage and Det Norske Veritas, and, as little as we can get away with, the media.
  • Unified Command’s priority continues to be the safety of all personnel, the environment, and Shell's bottom line.
  • Close coordination with the communities of Kodiak, Old Harbor, and any others we can buy off is ongoing.
  • Old Harbor Native Corporation, in collaboration with Unified Command, continues to develop plans to access the shoreline and surrounding area with a lucrative contract from Shell to clean up life boat debris in return for their public praise of Shell's efforts.
  • The UC has received the final engineering analysis report on the damage to the Kulluk, but we will not release this to the public unless required to by the courts.  However, we are pleased to announce that we are rewarding the tireless efforts of the crew of the Kulluk and also the Noble Discoverer, whose problems we were much more successful in keeping out of the media,  with a North Pacific cruise to Asia aboard the two rigs.  While there, out of sight from the media, in order to further enhance the already completely reliable, state of the art Arctic safety features of the rigs, we will have 350 of the world's best naval architects and ship builders design even more incredible safety features."
When I wrote this, yesterday afternoon there was no real Update #45 from the Unified Command.  When the really big news came out Monday, that both rigs - the Kulluk along with Noble Corp's Noble Discoverer, on contract to Shell and sitting more quietly in Seward - are headed to Asia for repairs, the Unified Command was silent.   Nothing on the website.  No emails to people on the list as I would have expected like the first 44 updates.  

But no, the press release came from Shell Alaska.  Real reporters, like the ADN's Lisa Demer, know these things, but amateurs like me were left in the dark when the announcement came out. 

So as I was going back to the websites for screenshots of their old announcements for my snarky Update #45 post  to show that there is no mention of this latest move, two days after it got international attention, I found a real Update #45, dated 5pm yesterday (Wednesday.)

As you read through the REAL Update #45, you'll see that in some ways, I'm beginning to get the hang of writing these things. Partly it's because they keep repeating themselves. 

The new info I see includes:

1.  The Unified Command is shutting down.
Propsed Kulluk Route from Kodiak to Dutch Harbor from Fact Sheet
2.  The Kulluk is going to Dutch Harbor - a ten day trip - "where a purpose-built dock for the Kulluk’s conical shape is situated" before being 'dry-towed' to Asia.

The rest I think was already out in the world Monday. 

As you read it, note how upbeat the update is.  "The Kulluk's in great shape. Oh by the way there was a bit of damage, but nothing you wouldn't expect from spending a couple of weeks on the rocks in pounding Aleutian surf. " Also note the difference in language in the quote from the Coast Guard's Paul Mehler and Shell's Sean Churchfield. 

The REAL Update:

DATE: February 13, 2013 5:30:00 PM AKST
For more information contact:
Unified Command Joint Information Center at (907) 433-3417
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.

For inquiries regarding the Kulluk, please contact the Shell U.S. media line: 713-241-4544. Inquiries to the Coast Guard should be directed to Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley at 907-271-2660. Inquires to the State of Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation should be directed to State On-scene Coordinator Steve Russell at 907-262-3401.

*Note:  I'm not completely sure what DNV Class Certification means.  Here's a description from DNV's website:
All ships being assigned class with DNV will be given a class notation consisting of a construction symbol, a main character of class, service area restriction notations and main ship type notations, as applicable. Class notations cover mandatory and optional requirements. Class notations may be given a supplemental symbol. The supplement is used to identify special requirements or limitations related to the class notation.
All class notations are listed and categorised in the DNV Rules for Classification of Ships, part 1, chapter 2 and the DNV Rules for High Speed, Light Craft and Naval Surface Craft, part 1, chapter 1. To purchase the Rules, please go to our webshop. [The webshop link didn't work, but here's a link to all their rules.]
I do not know anything about this other than what I'm reading.  But it would be interesting to see whether Shell's certification has a supplement identifying "special requirements or limitations."

Here's a bit more from their Rules for Classification of Ships - January 2013.
DNV is a global provider of knowledge for managing risk. Today, safe and responsible business conduct is both a license to operate and a competitive advantage. Our core competence is to identify, assess, and advise on risk management. From our leading position in certification, classification, verification, and training, we develop and apply standards and best practices. This helps our customers safely and responsibly improve their business performance. DNV is an independent organisation with dedicated risk professionals in more than 100 countries, with the purpose of safeguarding life, property and the environment.
The Rules lay down technical and procedural requirements related to obtaining and retaining a Class Certificate. It is used as a contractual document and includes both requirements and acceptance criteria.
**I'm not sure what Flag Ship Approval means.  Or what it looks like.  I found a document from the US Coast Guard that may be related (or not):  DNV RULES FOR CLASSIFICATION OF SHIPS AND INTERNATIONAL CONVENTIONS


  1. I'd prefer that rather than stand down, the UC keep a skeleton crew aboard until both these damned vessels (I mean the term literally) are out of Alaska waters. There is still much that can go wrong here.

  2. ... continuing... SSDD (same shit, different day)...


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