Panel Collects Details of Shell Towing Procedures

A Coast Guard panel investigating the December grounding of a Shell drill barge off the Alaska coast focused questions Tuesday on the vessel's previous trip across the Gulf of Alaska.

In this photo provided by the United States Coast Guard, the tugs Aiviq and Nanuq tow the mobile drilling unit Kulluk while a Coast Guard helicopter from Air Station Kodiak transports crew members on Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, 80 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska. The tug lost the initial tow Thursday and suffered several engine failures prompting the deployment of response assets by the Coast Guard and Royal Dutch Shell. (AP Photo/United States Coast Guard, Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis)

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by Associated Press

ANCHORAGE- A Coast Guard panel investigating the December grounding of a Shell drill barge off the Alaska coast focused questions Tuesday on the vessel's previous trip across the Gulf of Alaska.
   
Panel members Tuesday questioned Capt. Marc Dial, the towing master for Kulluk, about the trip north in June 2012 from Seattle to Dutch Harbor.
   
Members quizzed Dial about how he would detect stress on the steel cable, buckles and shackles that made up the tow line between the Kulluk and the towing vessel, the Aiviq.
   
Dial says the funnel-shape hull of the Kulluk makes it unique. He says the vessel oscillated in an elliptical orbit but the motion did not affect towing load.
   
Dial says the Aiviq and its towing equipment was more than adequate for the job.


The Shell Alaska official who approved a plan for a winter crossing of the Gulf of Alaska by a drilling barge says the document called for moving to shelter in protected bays if extreme weather hit.
    
Norman "Buddy" Custard says the other possibility was moving to deep water and riding out a big storm.
    
Custard testified Tuesday in Anchorage during the second day of Coast Guard hearings into the Dec. 31 grounding of the Kulluk near Kodiak Island during a storm where waves exceeded 30 feet.
    
The Kulluk during the summer open water season drilled in the Beaufort Sea. It was on its way to a Seattle shipyard when it became separated Dec. 27 from its towing vessel.
    
Multiple attempts over four days failed to keep tow lines connected.
 

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