Grounded AK drill barge called safe to tow

Grounded Shell drill barge called safe to tow; Alaska unified command says its work is done

Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- A multi-agency group formed to deal with the New Year's Eve grounding of a Royal Dutch Shell PLC drill barge near an Alaskan island says the rig is safe to tow to its next port and the unified command is disbanding.

Coast Guard on-scene coordinator Capt. Paul Mehler said Wednesday that his agency will continue to monitor the activities involved in getting the Kulluk ready to move.

Shell spokesmen say independent analysis confirms the barge is safe to tow to Dutch Harbor. From there it will be "dry towed" aboard a larger vessel to an unspecified Asian shipyard for repair.

Wednesday's final update from the response team says the inner hull of the Kulluk was not breached and all four fuel tanks are intact. The outer hull was damaged and some windows and hatches were breached. Those portals have been secured to make sure the rig is weather tight.

Three ocean-going tugs and a response vessel plan to accompany the Kulluk on its estimated 10-day trip to Dutch Harbor.

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