Coast Guard Determines Drill Rig Did Not Ground

Tuesday, July 17 2012

Divers inspected the hull of Shell’s drill ship, the Noble Discoverer, Monday night and determined that the rig never touched bottom when it dragged anchor on Saturday. Coast Guard Lieutenant Jim Fothergill says investigators watched a live feed of the hull inspection from aboard the ship.

“We were able to find no physical evidence of any damage that would have been caused by a grounding.”

Fothergill didn’t rule out the possibility of a soft grounding – that wouldn’t have casused damage ot the hull -- and says that for the Coast Guard’s purposes, the incident is still being investigated as a marine casualty. 

“We want to do our best to find ways to prevent things like this from happening again.”

Shell spokesperson Curtis Smith says the company has moved past the question of whether the rig ran aground or not.

“The bigger issue is that we had a vessel move that should not have. Our aspiration, always, is to be operationally flawless. Obviously that was not the case. It’s something that we take really seriously and frankly, it’s unacceptable, we have to find out why it happened, investigate, and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

The Noble Discoverer is still anchored just offshore in Unalaska Bay, but Shell may move the vessel to a different mooring in coming days.

Jeff on Friday, July 20 2012:

There is no way that this determination is correct. The depth of the water where the vessel is resting yards off the shore is shallower than the draft of the vessel. Just because there is no damage to the hull doesnt mean the vessel didnt ground.

TripleU on Wednesday, July 18 2012:

6-3- tango, your question, "Coast Guard seems to do very well when it is a fishing vessel boarding, minor fuel spill, or foreign flagged vessel with questionable safety compliance. Why not here?" Obviously - Big Oil we all need it. Even Greenpeace protesting drilling is running up to North in a vessel that will burn 10 of thousands of gallons of oil - ironic, protest oil drilling while burning enough oil to power a small city for a year. Don't burn the hand that feeds you. The Coast Guard is as political as any other agency - they need oil so oil companies will get preferential treatment - less violations and less scrutiny.....benefits us all

6-3-Tango on Wednesday, July 18 2012:

Vessels do drag anchor all the time. However, they do not drag anchor and run aground as this one did all the time. Especially not with so many other vessels nearby. I think it has been news any time a vessel has run aground in Unalaska Bay, and no doubt that has happened before. These "facts" that you speak of are being skewed by company spokespeople to Coast Guard personnel, none of whom were on site when this incident occurred or even after. The fact is that this vessel dragged her anchor until her stern rested on the beach. Wind blowin', Disco pinned to the beach such that no more aft movement was possible. The company spins and spins, and the Coast Guard gets dizzy. Picking at the little things is something that the Coast Guard seems to do very well when it is a fishing vessel boarding, minor fuel spill, or foreign flagged vessel with questionable safety compliance. Why not here?

Paul on Tuesday, July 17 2012:

The 175 yard number was obviously a mistake or bad relay of information by the Anchorage reporter. The vessel is anchored in the same place now as it was before it dragged anchor. Stop picking at little things, you sound like an idiot. The fact is that the vessel dragged anchor and either went aground or not. What difference does it make? Vessels drag anchor all the time. If this was any other vessel besides a Shell vessel it wouldn't be a story and you wouldn't give a crap.

6-3-Tango on Tuesday, July 17 2012:

Read this and then do the math. This statement from Coast Guard Officer
Sara Frances proves that the Coast Guard has no idea what they are
talking about and have no business making a statement:

"High winds in Dutch Harbor on Saturday afternoon probably led to the
ship drifting, said Coast Guard Petty Officer Sara Francis. Winds of 27
mph were reported with gusts of 35 mph, she said. A Coast Guard report
Saturday saying that the ship only came within 175 yards of shore when
witnesses said it got much closer was incorrect, Francis acknowledged.
The ship, which Shell said has a 26-foot draft, had been anchored 175
yards out when it began to drag anchor, she said."
Read more here:

The math: If this vessel was anchored 175 yards out as the USCG and
Shell say, that is equal to 525 feet. Since the registered length of
this vessel is 571 feet, and the anchor extended from the bow which was
into the wind, that would put the stern end of the vessel swinging well
in excess of its length and certainly touching the bottom then at a
depth equal to its draft. People who don't know anything about boats
might believe that because you could see water between the stern and the
dry land beach in the pictures that this ship was not aground. They, Shell and the US Coast Guard would all be wrong.

HempOil the Conqueror on Tuesday, July 17 2012:

Shell continues to deny the facts. Please , Shell, explain why, if this rig was never grounded, did it take a straining tug boat to free it from its position mere feet from the high water line on the beach?

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