Royal Dutch Shell’s preparedness to drill offshore in the harsh and remote Arctic Ocean this summer has been called into question by a series of recent events.
Over the weekend, the company’s drilling rig, the Noble Discoverer, appears to have come dangerously close to running aground near Dutch Harbor, where Shell’s fleet has been assembled. The Noble Discoverer is one of two dozen ships Shell plans to send into some of the most challenging conditions on the planet. According to the US Coast Guard, the vessel slipped anchor and drifted within 100 yards off shore before being pulled back into deeper water by a Shell tugboat.
lthough Shell and the Coast Guard asserted there was no evidence of grounding, onlookers — including longshoreman David Howard and Dutch Harbor captain Kristjan Laxfoss— contradicted this account, saying the vessel was not moving and appeared grounded: “There’s no question it hit the beach. That ship was not coming any closer. It was on the beach.”
Petty Officer Sarah Francis said winds of 27-35 miles per hour likely led to the ship drifting — conditions that are benign compared with the hurricane-force gales, 20-foot swells, and dynamic sea ice the Discoverer could encounter off the North Slope where the company plans to drill offshor
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