Shell’s Arctic Icebreaker Damaged, Returns to Port

Royal Dutch Shell’s Arctic drilling plans have hit another hurdle as the company’s icebreaker Fennica had to return to dock in Dutch Harbor last week after a hole was discovered in the vessel’s hull.

The vessel was supposed to head for the Arctic on Friday, loaded with a capping stack that would be used to seal a well in case of a blowout, the Associated Press reports, citing the company’s spokesman Curtis Smith.

However, the leak was detected in MSV Fennica’s ballast tank shortly after the vessel departed from the Dutch Harbor, Alaska forcing the crew to go back.

An inspection determined that the breach in the hull was 39 inches long and 2 inches wide rendering the ship unfit to resume the journey. It was not disclosed whether the ship would have to be drydocked to complete the repairs.

As a result, the oil major is considering to use another vessel to embark on the voyage and transport the said equipment to Shell’s drilling site in the Chukchi Sea.

The company is waiting for a drilling permit to be able to start its operations in the Arctic as Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement is still revising Shell’s applications for two wells.

Initial estimates indicate that Shell could begin drilling for oil in the Arctic off Alaska as early as the third week in July.

Shell’s two drilling rigs Noble Discoverer and Polar Pioneer have already departed for the Arctic but not without having been faced with fierce disapproval from environmental groups.

World Maritime News Staff