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Two Tugs Expected to Tow Kulluk Collide in Kiliuda Bay

February 20, 2013|By Chris Klint | Channel 2 News

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The Coast Guard says two of the three tugboats expected to tow the damaged Shell drilling rig Kulluk to Dutch Harbor after its New Year’s Eve grounding collided last week.

According to Coast Guard spokesperson Petty Officer 1st Class David Mosley, the Foss Maritime tug Corbin Foss and the Crowley Maritime Corp. tug Ocean Wave were “maneuvering in close proximity” in Kiliuda Bay off Kodiak Island Friday, when the Corbin Foss struck the Ocean Wave at about 5:30 p.m.

Nobody was injured in the collision, and the Ocean Wave suffered only minor damage. The vessels subsequently headed to Kodiak for a Coast Guard inspection.

While drug tests were run on crew members, in accordance with standard Coast Guard policy for marine incidents, Mosley says no Coast Guard assets headed to the scene because the crash was a non-injury collision.

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“It was a maneuvering issue -- there was no response,” Mosley said.

Mosley says the Kulluk, which was refloated and taken to Kiliuda Bay roughly a week after its grounding off Sitkalidak Island, was not under tow at the time. The conical drilling unit remains at anchor, under a Captain of the Port order from the Coast Guard restricting its movement.

In a Feb. 13 statement announcing its stand-down, the Unified Command overseeing the response to the Kulluk’s grounding said that the rig would soon be towed on a 10-day trip to Dutch Harbor, where it would be placed into a special dock and taken on to Asia for repairs. A fact sheet accompanying the statement (PDF) said the Ocean Wave, the Corbin Foss and another Foss tug, the Lauren Foss, would be conducting the Dutch Harbor tow.

A vessel that lost power Dec. 28 while towing the Kulluk to Seattle, the polar icebreaker Aiviq, was reportedly not involved in the Dutch Harbor tow because the circumstances of its power loss were still under investigation. The engine failure left responders trying to take the Kulluk back in tow over the following weekend, but the rig eventually ran aground.

Mosley says any repairs to the tugs involved in Friday’s collision will be overseen by the vessels’ owners.

In an email to Channel 2, Shell spokesperson Curtis Smith says the company doesn't anticipate any delays due to the collision in its plans to move the Kulluk.

"(P)oor weather continues to delay the departure of the Kulluk from Kiliuda Bay," Smith wrote. "Fortunately, the dry tow schedule from Dutch Harbor to Asia remains viable."

Foss Maritime officials weren’t immediately available for comment when Channel 2 called the companies Wednesday. Crowley refused comment on the matter, referring questions to the Coast Guard.

Channel 2's Mike Ross contributed information to this story.

Contact Chris Klint

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