A winter storm resulted in the drilling rig, the Kulluk, to separate from its tugboat, the Alert. The Kulluk grounded on rocks near Kodiak Island in Alaska on New Year’s Eve. The rig contains ~150,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 12,000 gallons of other petroleum based liquids. The US Coast Guard rescued 18 workers from the rig.
So far, no oil sheen has been observed associated with the rig. This is likely a result of the design of the ship that placed the fuel tanks in the center of the vessel and encased them in heavy steel. Nonetheless, Kodiak Island is a sensitive area for wildlife and salmon fisheries. The grounded rig is also located within a mile of Refuge Rock, the site of the massacre of hundreds of local villagers by Russian traders in 1784.
Oil spill responders are staging personnel and equipment in the cities of Seward, Kodiak and Old Harbor. Four staff members from International Bird rescue have been dispatched to Alaska. Michael Ziccardi and Kyra Mills-Parker from OWCN have been placed on stand-by should a spill occur.
The US Coast Guard is continuing with salvage work as weather allows and will conduct a detailed “maritime casualty investigation” of the incident. We are all keeping our fingers crossed that the weather will cooperate so the fuel can be safely offloaded and the Kulluk moved to a safe harbor before the rig breaks up and oil is released into the environment. However, should a disaster occur OWCN and our Member Organizations are at the ready to help with the rescue and rehabilitation of oiled wildlife.