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DATE: January 5, 2013 5:30:00 PM AKST

Jan. 5: Press conference transcript

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Operator: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Unified Command press conference. For those listening on the phone, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Later we will conduct a question-and-answer session, and instructions will be given at that time. For those listening on the phones, if you should require assistance at any time, please press the star, followed by the zero, on your touch-tone phone and an operator will assist you.

I would now like to turn the conference over to Chief Warrant Officer Amy Midget. Please go ahead.

Amy Midget: Welcome ladies and gentlemen to today’s press conference. I am Amy Midget, the Public Information Officer for the Kulluk incident. Members of the Unified Command will provide an operational update on the status of the Kulluk recovery.

With me today is Coast Guard Captain Paul Mehler, the Federal On-Scene Coordinator; Mr. Steven Russell with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, State On-Scene Coordinator; Sean Churchfield, Incident Commander and Operations Manager for Shell Alaska; Mr. Duane Dvorak, Kodiak Island Borough and Local On-Scene Coordinator; and Mr. Tommy Travis with Noble Drilling.

We’ll begin today with brief statements followed by a 30-minute question-and-answer period. During the question-and-answer period, please raise your hand and wait for the facilitator to bring you a microphone. This is for the benefit of our call-in attendees. To coincide technologies, please state your name and your affiliations. In order to get in as many questions as possible, please limit yourself to one question and one follow-up. We will also take questions from our callers. And, I ask that you please limit your questions to the current operations and identify whom your question is directed to. Following the briefing, the Joint Information Center staff will be able to help you with any further needs. And, as a reminder, the video that you saw before the conference will be available on a (inaudible) drive with your press kits.

Thank you. I will now turn it over to Sean Churchfield.

 

Sean Churchfield: Hi. Good afternoon, my name is Sean Churchfield and I’m the Incident Commander and the Operations Manager for Shell Alaska. The Unified Command continues to bring significant resources and expertise to assist on this incident, and I again want to commend all those involved for their continued dedication. At each of our briefings we talk about the folks of the Unified Command on Safety or, of personnel and the environment in extremely challenging conditions. I will continue to emphasize this to our teams, given the recovery activities we will be initiating, as well as continued weather challenges.

As many of you may know, NOAA issued a tsunami warning shortly after midnight on Jan. 5, 2013. There was no impact to our recovery operations and, additionally, the location of the Kulluk was just outside the tsunami-warning zone outlined by NOAA. Nevertheless, we remain vigilant.

At this time, the Kulluk continues to remain upright and there is no evidence of any sheen in the vicinity, nor does there appear to be any threat to the stability of the vessel, and the fuel tanks have been sounded and appear intact. According to naval architects, the vessel is sound and fit to tow.

I’d like to give you a brief operational update. Currently, the salvage team is on board the vessel and preparing for the recovery operations. Based on the soundings the salvage team have been able to make, we have been able to identify one compartment or void filled with water. The voids are isolated air gaps within inner and outer holds of the Kulluk, and they act as a buffer to protect the interior of the vessel. Not all the void spaces have been sounded. The salvage team continues to take soundings of the fuel tanks to confirm that they remain intact.

As I mentioned, the vessel has been deemed sound and fit to tow. A tow plan has been developed and the Unified Command has reviewed and approved that plan. The exact timing of the recovery operations will depend on weather, tides and operational readiness. And, once Unified Command has confirmed the operation safe and ready to move forward, the recovery operation will begin. And, when that happens, we will pass that information to you.

As noted in our earlier update this morning, today we plan to connect the main towline to the Kulluk in preparation for recovery operations of the drilling unit. However, I really want to emphasize that the timing of this plan will depend heavily on weather, tide, and operational considerations.

As a precaution, the boom is being deployed with special focus on the salmon streams that flow into Ocean Bay. However, other near-shore and offshore oil spill response assets have been deployed and are staged and ready.

The current plan calls for the Kulluk to be towed to Kiliuda Bay, and that’s a tow of approximately 30 miles. At Shell, we continue to deploy the necessary resources to fully support this recovery effort, and I am pleased we are making progress in our recovery effort but, of course, the critical work is yet to come and the safety of the personnel, environment and operations continues to be the main focus. Thank you very much.

Paul Mehler: Good afternoon, I am Captain Paul Mehler III, the Coast Guard Federal On-Scene Coordinator for this response.

As the Federal On-Scene Coordinator, I am confident the right people have been brought together to address this response. My oversight and guidance ensures that Shell and all supporting agencies and resources safely conduct response operations in accordance with the subarea contingency plans. It is paramount to me that the salvage and tow plans take all contingencies into consideration, ensuring we get this job done right.

I want to reaffirm that the Coast Guard is committed to the responsibilities we have to the people of Alaska. I recognize and appreciate our community that has supported our crews as we work to see this response through.

Coast Guard assets that are currently responding include the cutter Alex Haley and its small boat, five aircraft including two HH-60s, two MH-65s and one C-130, as well as nearly 150 Coast Guard members with extensive emergency response knowledge currently stationed in Old Harbor, Kodiak, Anchorage and deployed on-surface assets in the water. 

Our cutters have been providing critical on-scene weather information and command-and-control support. Air assets have not only done—completed search-and-rescue operations, they are delivering salvage teams and equipment essential to our mission success.

I have deployed the Coast Guard Salvage Engineering Response Team to Kodiak. This team provides a—the Unified Command valuable consultation on salvage engineering.

Safety of the response personnel remains our No. 1 priority. The very nature of these recovery operations and the difficult weather conditions must be managed without compromise. Our timeline is still difficult to nail down, but we are committed to seeing this response through to a safe conclusion.

Please understand that as the recovery operations develop, it may be necessary to alter these plans to address new issues or concerns. Thank you to our responders, stakeholders and all the members of our local communities for your commitment and hard work.

Steven Russell: Good afternoon, my name’s Steven Russell. I’m with the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. I’m the State On-Scene Coordinator for this incident.

To recover the Kulluk from its current position, the Unified Command are going to move it to the safe harbor where it can be inspected and evaluated. The places for temporary anchoring of stricken vessels are called Potential Places of Refuge. The Alaska Unified Plan identifies these places of refuge. For example, the Alaska Unified Plan’s Kodiak area—sub-Kodiak—subarea response plan identifies 10 potential places of refuge in the southeast region of Kodiak Island, near Sitkalidak Island. There are seven potential places of refuge for this—for the vessel the size of the Kulluk.

These places of refuge are carefully identified by a number of local, state, federal agencies, as well as community associations and stakeholders. Admission by the Unified Command into a potential place of refuge is based predominantly on the requirements of the emergency response. Currently, the Kulluk is not leaking fuels, and its presence for inspection and evaluation in the Kiliuda Bay area should not pose a potential risk.

The Unified Command, though, is requiring a full response capability while the response effort is—while the recovery effort is conducted in Kiliuda Bay. Both near-shore and offshore response vessels will be in the area throughout the anchoring in case the inspections determine any environmental concerns.

The State has also heard concerns regarding the upcoming commercial fishery season in the area, specifically the Tanner Crab Fishery which is scheduled to open in that region Jan. 15. At this point the Kulluk-recovery operations do not pose an environmental threat that would preclude the opening of this fishery.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation is working closely with the Department of Fish and Game to monitor any impact that this operation may have on the Tanner Crab Fishery, any other fisheries including commercial, subsistence and sport. ADEC remains confident that the Kulluk-recovery operation can be conducted with limited or no environmental impact. Thank you.

Duane Dvorak: Duane Dvorak with Kodiak Island Borough. In the context of this response, my position with the Unified Command is Local On-Scene Coordinator. While the operational details of vessel recovery are beyond my expertise, I am here to represent the Borough community and connect the Unified Command with local stakeholders and community resources. 

Throughout this response, it has been important to Unified Command that they consider the environmental concerns and cultural sensitivity in the recovery plan to the greatest degree possible. Particular emphasis in this response has been to provide outreach and two-way communication with the communities of Old Harbor and Akhiok.

Plans and contingencies for the recovery have been completed and submitted to appropriate agencies for approval. The only consideration that has been elevated above local community concerns has been the safety of incident responders, some of whom reside in the affected local communities.

Just as Unified Command has continued to communicate with the local community throughout the Kulluk response, local groups were also involved in the development of the Kodiak Sub-area Contingency Plan, which identifies Potential Places of Refuge. This engagement included, but was not limited to, Kodiak Island Borough and the City of Kodiak. The plan was also vetted through state and local groups, and made available for public review prior to being approved and adopted.

I did want to clarify comments that were made during our previous press conference. I had announced that a meeting would be held on Sunday at Kodiak High School. However, this meeting has been postponed due to the Russian Christmas holiday. There is, however, a tentatively scheduled meeting in the community of Old Harbor, to be held at noon on Monday.

Tommy Travis: Good afternoon. I’m Tommy Travis with Noble Drilling. Since the time of the previous press briefing, Noble has continued to provide assistance to the United Command and to support the overall recovery effort. We’re providing around the clock support and will continue to do so. Most often our contribution has been to provide technical and equipment related information, which we acquired in our role as a contract driller. Thank you. 

Amy Midget: Right. I will now open the floor to questions. Again, please limit your questions to current operations and wait for the facilitator to give you a microphone.

Nancy Lockwood (ph): Nancy Lockwood, Channel 2. My question is for Churchfield.

Sean Churchfield: Yes.

Nancy (ph): What is the damage done to the Kulluk (inaudible) you’re going to do for Shell’s 2013 drilling season?

Sean Churchfield: So, right now I’m exclusively focused on the recovery effort. We are looking at the assessment of the damage related to recovery of the Kulluk. I’m not in a position to comment on the other assessments that might be made and will need to be made by Shell for their plans for the rest of the ’13 season.

Amy Midget: Next question please.

Rich Mauer (ph): Hi. Rich Mauer, Anchorage Daily News. This is—I don’t know who this question is to, but was a tow effort attempted this morning? Is there a plan to have a tow effort this evening and is the tow plan available for us; a copy of the tow plan?

Speaker: (Inaudible).

Sean Churchfield: So, currently we are manoeuvring to put a towline onto the Kulluk, so no tow effort has been made at this stage. I don’t have a timeline for the completion of those activities. They are subject to weather and operational constraints. The tow plan is—we are not making the tow plan available at this moment, and that is simply because it evolves—as the operation is ongoing, so the tow plan will evolve to match the situations we find.

Speaker: (Inaudible).

Rich Mauer: I mean, the press releases are evolving, too. There’s—they might have been accurate at the time they were issued. They may not be accurate today. I don’t see why you can’t make the current tow plan available. And, there’s a follow—also there’s a follow-up. What is the effective weight of the vessel in its grounded position? Do you know that?

Sean Churchfield: So, I’ll take the second question first. I will have to defer that I don’t know what the effective grounded weight—or, it’s—if that is a technical marine term, I’m sorry I can’t give you that answer. I think the reason for keeping the tow plan with the Unified Command—the incident response team. As I say, as new information comes, it evolves relatively quickly and we would prefer to keep that just something—a document we can manage and control as we develop the operations. We will keep you up-to-date as the operations unfold and as we move into recovery operations.

Amy Midget: I will now take a question from the phones please.

Operator: Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, if you’d like to ask a question on the phone, please press the star, followed by the one on your touch-tone phone. Also, if you’d like to withdraw your question, you can press the star, followed by the two. If you’re using speaker equipment, you’ll need to lift the handset before making your selection.

Our first question is from the line of Richard Harris with NPR. Please go ahead.

Richard Harris: Yes, two quick technical questions. Are you going to need to remove weight from the Kulluk before you tow it and, if so, would that be fuel or some other material? And, the second question is: how close do the tow boats get to the Kulluk when they start the tow?

Sean Churchfield: So, at this stage, the naval architects have reviewed the space on the Kulluk and we are not planning to take any weight off the Kulluk for the initial tow efforts. And, on the length of the tow line, I’m afraid I don’t have that information, but that is something I think we should be able to provide to you. If we can get that question to the JIC for follow-up after this conference.

Richard Harris: All right. Thank you.

Amy Midget: All right. One more question from the phone.

Operator: Thank you. The next question is from the line of Ben Lefebvre (ph)—I’m sorry, LeFebevre with the Wall Street Journal. Please go ahead.

Ben LeFebvre: Hi, thanks for taking my questions. I was wondering if you could let us know the extent of the damages on the rig. I know that you said there was some damage to the topside. I was wondering how extensive those were, if they were just spots that could be hammered out or if there’s any indication how (inaudible) appears in this case?

Speaker: Thanks.

Sean Churchfield: You broke up a little bit on the line. Could you repeat the question for me please?

Ben LeFebvre: Sorry. I’m just trying to get an idea of how extensive the damage is to the rig if—I know that you mentioned earlier that there was some topside damage and I know the generators are out. But, as far as structural damage on the topside, is this just, you know, some scuffs that may be able to be hammered out, or is it pretty extensive where some, I guess, large scale repairs might be needed?

Sean Churchfield: So, I’d like to address that question really in the context of the recovery operations we’re going through at the moment. The damage assessment we’ve been doing have really been focused on assuring the structural integrity of the hull. And, the assessment we have right now is that the vessel is sound and fit for tow.

Amy Midget: A question from the room.

Suzanna Caldwell: This is Suzanna Caldwell from the Alaska Dispatch. Do we know if the hull has been breached? I understand that there’s some sea water in the specific 3S7C void. I’m curious if we know why there’s sea water in there? And also, where is this void in relation to the fuel tanks?

Sean Churchfield: So, you’re correct. In all the voids that we have sounded, we have one that we have found with water inside it. We are not absolutely certain of the cause of that water. The specific location is on a different level. It’s on a lower level to the fuel tanks, but is not adjacent to the fuel tanks.

Ben McKenzie: Ben McKenzie. I’m from GQ. A question, I think, for Captain Mehler. Have you put any divers down to look at the hull? Do you have all the assets in place in order to do the tow within the next 24 hours, if needed?

And secondarily, a question for Tommy Travis of Noble: if the 18 members of the Kulluk crew are still on location and helping?

Paul Mehler: Have we put divers down? No, we have not put down any divers in the water yet. It is certainly something—as this operation progresses, it is one of the things we’d be looking at for future operations. But, for this particular tow segment, no.

You had a second part?

Ben McKenzie: If, on this vessel, part of the place that you would tow is in the next 24 hours (inaudible)?

Paul Mehler: So, are all the vessels—do we have a contingency in place for a safe tow—for all the vessels?

Ben McKenzie: It’s all—do you have all the assets you need to do it safely now?

Paul Mehler: Yes. We are currently—there are a couple of pieces we are still waiting to fly out. There’s a—we’re using a DOD, the Chinooks, they’ll lift some heavy equipment and, due to weather, that was one of the holdups today to insure we had everything in place before we move forward. The plans are there. We have—the vessels are in place. It’s just a couple of fine details in ensuring we have all the proper equipment before we move forward.

Tommy?

Tommy Travis: Noble Drilling is providing technical engineering support and we do have crew support on scene.

Ben McKenzie: (Inaudible).

Tommy Travis: Some of those personnel are still helping and others are available, if needed.

Amy Midget: And, a question from the phones, please.

Operator: Thank you. Our next question is from the line of Margaret Bauman with the Fishermen’s News. Please go ahead.

Margaret Bauman: Yes, thank you. I’d like to know once the vessel is towed and the inspection and the valuation are completed, what’s next? Is the vessel still going to be towed to Seattle for maintenance and repair, or what’s on the agenda? Thank you.

Sean Churchfield: So, thank you for the question. So, I think you hit the nail on the head. We will be completing the assessment once we have this vessel brought to the safe refuge in Kiliuda Bay. Depending what comes out that assessment, so the next stage of the plan will evolve. I’m not in a position to give you a definitive answer at this point.

Speaker: Good afternoon Mr. Churchfield. Can you talk about the timing of this. Are you looking at a tow today because of high tide, is this ideal? And is there a sense of urgency to get it out of there because it’s exposed?

Paul Mehler: So the question is timing, are we prepared, are we looking—is this (cross talking) the tide? Part of the salvage plan takes into consideration certainly weather. Tides, winds, what we’re going to be doing. There is a sense of urgency is to do this right. The urgency has been in place that we have all the steps, all the equipment and all the contingencies in place and we’ve done all the what if’s. So right now if we get the gears we were talking about earlier, if all the gears in place, the plan is signed. If we have everything in place and the weather permits and we have the right tide, we are certainly looking at moving forward. If we don’t have the equipment on front of that with the Chinooks (ph) to try and get some of that gear, then we wait until the next operational period that is safe.

So again, very difficult as I said to give a timeline when it will happen. Everything has to be in place. As Unified Command we have to agree that the masters on the vessels, it has to be a complete buy off that this is the right thing to do at the right time. That’s our urgency. (Cross talking).

Speaker: Tide better this week than what they’re going to be in two weeks, or does it matter?

Paul Mehler: It does matter and the tide, as you’re well aware, we get every day. We’re looking at the tides and this part of the response plan. We want to get this off as soon as we can and we’re looking at the best tides, the best opportunities, but the first piece is having everything there. And as I stand right here today, we don’t have it all. Still a couple of really important pieces we’re trying to get out with heavy equipment.

Speaker: (Inaudible).

Paul Mehler: The two that I know, we have a large generator and we have a piece of a tow connection, that’s actually an expandable piece that would be the—that’s the key piece we’re missing right now. (Inaudible).

Sean Churchfield: So I think the principle consideration of the Captain’s outline, is we must have all the equipment on scene ready and deployed and we must be absolutely assured we’re in a safe state to proceed and at that point the Unified Command will make the decision that we may commence the recovery operation. Does that address the point you had?

Speaker: The point was the tides are more favorable tonight than they will be in two weeks? (Inaudible) to do it now rather than waiting later in the month.

Sean Churchfield: So at this stage we’re looking to see if we can refloat as soon as possible and depending on the outcomes, we’ll be looking back or looking forward.

Amy Midget: Again, a call from the phone lines please, another question.

Operator: Thank you, our next question is from the line of Jennifer Dlouhy with the Houston Chronicle. Please go ahead.

Jennifer Dlouhy: Thanks, most of my questions have actually been asked, but I wanted to follow up. What kind of contingency planning are you doing for the actual tow operation, you know, how many of the what if’s as you referred to, have you gone through and can you make some of that available to us?

Sean Churchfield: Thank you for the question. So we have been looking at the what if scenarios. We have been looking at the suite of vessels that have been assembled to assist the tow. We’ve been running through those scenarios to insure that we have a robust plan going forward. As with the tow plan, I would not think that would be made available at this time. As the situation evolves and we maneuver the assets to get the best outcome from this recovery.

Amy Midget: Take another question from the calls please.

Operator: Thank you, our next question is from the line of Katherine Schmidt with the Upstream Newspaper. Please go ahead.

Katherine Schmidt: Hi, thanks for taking the question. Can you elaborate on which vessels will be used for the tow and is it the Aiviq (ph), forgive me if I’m not pronouncing that correctly, is it fit to be working, as it had engine failure last week? Thanks.

Sean Churchfield: Thank you for the question. The primary tow vessel in the plan at the moment is the Aiviq (ph) and Edison Chouest (ph) since they had the engine failure have been working with the vessel to insure that they have mitigated any future failures. Investigation as to how the failure occurred has not been completed, so I’m not at—don’t have that information to give.

Katherine Schmidt: Can you tell us what happened or what was wrong (cross talking).

Speaker: (Inaudible) Houston (ph) with Associated Press. Split technical question. Is there a (inaudible) to the ship, a sort of optimum place where the tow line should go and if it is the right decision (ph)?

Sean Churchfield: So the main tow wires—on the main tow bridle (ph) on the Kulluk have been inspected and they have found to be good and sound. And the way the Kulluk is oriented we intend to connect the main tow line to that main tow bridle. 

 Amy Midget: Another question in the room.

Speaker: Yes (inaudible). Just in terms of what might still be on the Kulluk and available for removal if you choose to. Is there a drill pipeline, is there mud on it, do you plan to have a crew on board during the tow and are the Chinooks available to remove other things from the Kulluk if—as part of the contingency if you can’t pull it off the ground as it is right now? Okay, (inaudible).

Speaker: Yes.

Speaker: So, if I think about…

Speaker: A true Chinook.

Sean Churchfield: So I’ll start at the beginning. No, there is no drill pipe on board the vessel, there is no drilling mud on the vessel and it stands at the moment there is absolutely no plan to remove any of the equipment with the Chinooks.

Speaker: So the salvage crew on the current plan will remain with the vessel as it is pulled off the shore.

Paul Mehler: I can elaborate on that. I think it’s important to elaborate a little bit on the crew. That was a big role for us. One of the contingencies we spoke of earlier is in showing if we’re going to leave people on here, we looked at things like firefighting, lifesaving gear, even things like food and water. So all those were part of the contingency in the salvage plan response plan. 

(Inaudible). 

Speaker: I’ll follow up on that. Any plans to remove the fuel, the diesel, the (inaudible)?

Sean Churchfield: So the discussion about removing the fuel from the Kulluk has been a very lengthy and I think well covered, well addressed issue. At this stage based on the location of the fuel and the opinions of the naval architects, we have opted not to remove the fuel. Removing the fuel from the Kulluk in its current state has inherent risks to run a pipe essentially out and into the sea which has a risk of leakage during the operation. At this stage we feel the best plan is to leave the fuel on board.

Amy Midget: Next question from a call. 

Operator: Thank you. Our next question is from the line of Yereth Rosen with Reuters. Please go ahead.

Yereth Rosen: Yes, hi. Is there yet a cost estimate for this response and if so, what is it?

Sean Churchfield: No, I do not have a cost estimate for the recovery at this moment. What I can say is that Shell is making all resources available for the recovery to insure we have a successful and safe operation. 

Amy Midget: We’ll take another question from the callers.

Operator: Thank you. Our next question is from the line of Hal Bernton with the Seattle Times. Go ahead.

Hal Bernton: I was wondering if someone could describe what, if any role, the insurer has in the Unified Command and the name of the insurer who is involved in the Unified Command, if possible.

Sean Chruchfield: I regret, I’m sorry I don’t have the information who the insurer of the rig is but I can also tell you they are not in the Unified Command.

Amy Midget: Another question in the room.

Speaker: Captain Mehler can you talk about what the vessel is resting on. Rock, sand and if you haven’t had divers down there, how confident are you in being able to (inaudible) to pull this thing off?

Paul Mehler: So the question is, would I talk a little bit about the bottom that she’s sitting on? Certainly that is something we are looking at very closely. We have the Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley has gunned a small (inaudible) under way and done soundings of the area. We’ve engaged other proposed resources we have to do the same thing. This is one of those areas we have to be extremely careful and ensure we do right and that’s why we’re comparing different vessels soundings to ensure that we have it. 

The actual—the bottom of it we’ve consulted with local knowledge, reached out to the community and asked local fisherman for their knowledge on it to piece together all the challenges that moving this off is going to take place.

Speaker: Do you know if it’s sand, is it rock, is it…?

Paul Mehler: It is—according to the charts and what we’re seeing right now, it is a rocky coast line.

Amy Midget: Another question in the room.

Speaker: I just have a follow-up question about cost. Who will the pay for the (inaudible), will Shell pay for it?

Sean Churchfield: (Inaudible) at this stage Shell is making sure that all resources are available to insure that this is a safe recovery and following that—Shell is making resources available for the recovery.

Amy Midget: I think we have one more question on the phone.

Operator: Yes our next question is from the line of Kalee Thompson with Popular Mechanics. Please go ahead.

Kalee Thompson: Hi, thanks for taking the call. I’m just wondering if you can elaborate on what kind of equipment is being assembled in case there is a problem during the salvage operation.

Tommy Travis: A environmental problem or a towing problem?

Kalee Thompson: I guess either, but there was mention of (inaudible) from Seward.

Sean Churchfield: So let me try and address that question. So currently we are assembling the vessels that we require for the tow plan to assist the tow with the Aiviq and the other vessel on the standby and we’re also insuring there are adequate vessels to stabilize the Kulluk when get into the port of potential refuge. The other elements that we have mobilized is, we have mobilized off shore and near shore response vessels and they’re approaching the scene and they are staged either on scene or in Old Harbor. And the final element that we have is that we are moving on shore protection equipment to the site we discussed earlier, we’re moving to protect the salmon streams that are flowing down into Ocean Bay.

Kalee Thompson: And what kind of equipment is that?

Sean Churchfield: So the equipment, so I think we can probably provide a full list of the equipment types we are mobilizing, they are response vessels, booms, skimmers and so on. But we can talk to the JIC to get you a more detailed list.

Amy Midget: Okay. One more question I believe from the phone.

Operator: Next question is a follow-up from the line of Katherine Schmidt with Upstream Newspaper. Please go ahead.

Katherine Schmidt: Hi, thanks. What is the soonest we could see the tow happen and what successive windows would you see opening up after that?

Sean Churchfield: So the timeline is difficult to see pin down, I can’t offer you firm times because right now the preparation for the tow is depended on the weather and the operational constraints, but we will be looking to move the vessel as soon as we are ready and able. 

Katherine Schmidt: Do you have a goal for that timeframe?

Paul Mehler: We are working to get all the operational elements in place and once we have that we’ll be able to make a go decision from the Unified Command. We’re ready to proceed with the recovery operations.

Katherine Schmidt: Thank you.

Amy Midget: More questions from the room.

Speaker: I just have a follow-up to one of the other questions and that is, if you haven’t gotten the investigation result as to what went wrong on the Aiviq, how can you be confident that the same thing won’t happen again?

Sean Churchfield: So the crew on the Aiviq have been working extremely hard to remedy the (inaudible), they have been treating their fuels and they have been changing out their filters, and thus far we have not seen a repeat of those problems.

Speaker: (Inaudible).

Sean Churchfield: We don’t have the results of the investigation but those are the mitigations they can take with what they have there.

Speaker: I have a question for Mr. Russell. You mentioned that there is no evidence of sheen in the vicinity of the vessel.

Steve Russel: Correct.

Speaker: What exactly does a sheen indicate and are there other environmental concerns that would not leave visible evidence like that, that you’re testing for.

Steve Russell: Certainly a sheen on the area would indicate that there is some petroleum products leaking from either below the water surface or from the deck of the Kulluk there. We haven’t seen anything since or anything since the grounding. The inventories have been inspected as well as possible, naturally there’s a lot of stuff jumbled around inside the vessel, but it has been examined repeatedly on the exterior and observed. Observations were looking just specifically for a sheen.

Speaker: (Inaudible).

Steve Russel: The water itself?

Speaker: (Inaudible).

Steve Russell: We’re working on visible clues. The energy that serves as a skuming in there, there would be very, very difficult to detect any residual or small amounts of chemicals. We have no indication based on the salvage assessment on the inside of the vessel that anything from inside has been communicating outside. So we have no indication of that.

Speaker: Thank you.

Speaker: I have a question for Duane Dvorak. Can you explain how the booms and other equipment are being moved across Sitkalidak Island from Old Harbor (inaudible), what are the concerns there?

Duane Dvorak: Well, you’re kind of getting into some technical things that I’ll defer, but it’s Sitkalidak just want to clarify that and I do believe that some of the local responders may be involved in assisting with the movement of these resources, but that actually is part of the more technical response that I’m not really sure exactly what’s in play right now. So, other than clarifying the name of Sitkalidak Island, I’m not sure. (Cross talking). 

Tommy Travis: The boom anchors, (inaudible) equipment, other support equipment for the river operation inside of Ocean Bay is primarily moved by helicopter. Duane is right, our local teams responding into that area to do some preventive techniques but most of the heavy equipment was sent by helicopter.

Amy Midget: Another question from the phone.

Operator: Next question is from the line of Jennifer Dlouhy from the Houston Chronicle. Go ahead.

Jennifer Dlouhy: Thank you for taking a follow-up. This is a question for Mr. Churchfield or Larry. I just wanted to clarify who was going to be the person on board remaining with the Kulluk during the tow. Has that been designated, is it going to be a member of the Nobel team? And basically, who will be on board during the tow, is that planned out?

Sean Churchfield: It has been planned out and as the Captain said one of the key conditions for us is to insure the safety of anybody who is left on board the vessel as we start the flow (ph). The crew on board the vessel at the moment includes the salvage crew and one representative from Shell. However the plan at the moment is before the tow, the representative for Shell will be taken off the rig, however if that’s not possible, he will move with the rig on the tow.

Jennifer Dlouhy: Thank you.

Speaker: Can you talk about the conditions, the weather that would kill the towing operation. What’s the maximum you’re going to try and what’s it like out there right now?

Sean Churchfield: I’m a little bit hesitant to put absolute numbers out there, but also haven’t had the up-to-date weather conditions from the Coast Guard vessels on scene. The weather right now is relatively calm, certainly compared to some of the earlier weather. As far as the tow plan, we are evaluating the weather conditions under which it is safe to proceed with the tow and the decision to go or no go will be taken in view of the weather.

Speaker: A ballpark figure: four-foot waves, eight-foot waves, 16-footers?

Sean Churchfield: As I said we’re evaluating the limits, we will evaluate the tow as we look at the conditions, I don’t have an operating envelope to share with you under which we will make the tow.

Amy Midget: We have time for one more question.

Speaker: In looking at the specs that you’ve provided on the Kulluk, it looks like the conical outer shell is approximately one-and-a-quarter to one-and-a-half-inch thick. Given the rocky bottom that the Kulluk is resting on. I mean is there concern that when you start towing this thing that it’s going peel at all?

Sean Churchfield: So, I will defer on the question of the thickness because I think that’s something you get from the specs as that depends exactly you’re referring to on the Kulluk’s hull. The situation at the moment from the naval architects is they do not see that as a threat at the moment, not a likely outcome. But I would say because of the construction of the Kulluk with these void spaces around the interior that there is good strength and good separation on the hull.

Speaker: OK.

Steve Russell: If I can add something to that. Firstly we have to plan and prepare in case something does happen, that a sheen develops from underneath the ground inside or something else pops up that fell off that was held against the hull there. We certainly need to prepare for anything like that. Once the Kulluk is moved away from the grounding site, that area will be looked at by the response crews that will be on scene when that moves and will give an evaluation if there is anything significant (cross talking).

Speaker: (Inaudible) do you change your mind about putting it where you’re putting it?

Steve Russell: We certainly would re-evaluate taking a leaking vessel in there. It would entirely depend on where it was leaking and how much was leaking there. But certainly that would require a re-evaluation. The entry into Kiliuda Bay is for inspection and evaluation. There’ll be no fuel transfers, there’ll be no other operational like that conducted.

Amy Midget: All right, that’s all the time we have for today. Thank you very much for coming. If you have any follow-up questions, please get with the number at the Joint Information Center and they’ll do their best to assist you. Thank you.

Operator: Ladies and gentlemen that does conclude our conference for today. Thank you for your participation and you may now disconnect. Lines are now closed.

 

END

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