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Kulluk Recovery Tow Plan Fact Sheet

January 6, 2013

The objective of the Recovery Tow Plan is to safely recover and tow the Kulluk from its grounded position to a Port of Refuge where it will be inspected and evaluated.

The Kulluk continues to remain upright; there is no evidence of any sheen in the vicinity, and there does not appear to be any threat to the stability of the vessel. The fuel tanks have been sounded and appear intact; and, according to naval architects, the vessel is sound and fit to tow. Unified Command will pay careful attention to the weather before initiating any operation to move the vessel off its shoreline perch and tow it to safe harbor.

Kulluk Recovery Tow Plan

The recovery and tow of the Kulluk will be done in three distinct phases:

Phase 1: Prepare and connect towage equipment between Aiviq and Kulluk.
Phase 2: Refloat the Kulluk
Phase 3: Tow Kulluk to Place of Refuge

Both the Alert and Aiviq are expected to stay connected to the Kulluk during towage with the Aiviq providing primary propulsion. Both tugs will remain connected even after the vessel is anchored. Additional tugs may be employed to ensure stable anchorage or in an emergency situation (three more are available on site).

The Kulluk will be towed to Kiliuda Bay where it will be inspected and evaluated.  Kiliuda Bay has been identified as a preferred place of refuge because it offers the best shelter option from the sea as well as its close proximity to the Kulluk’s current location. Kiliuda Bay is a listed potential port of refuge in the Kodiak Sub-Area Contingency Plan.  Unified Command consulted with Southwest Alaska pilots, tug operators and Old Harbor captains who all pinpointed the Bay as providing the best safe harbor.  


The timing of the plan depends heavily on weather and tidal considerations including visibility, swell waves and wind waves (height and direction). The approval to commence towing operations is made by the Unified Command.  The Salvage Master on board the Kulluk, after consultation with the crews and captains of the towing tugs, makes a final call based on safety considerations. A minimum weather window of 12 hours is required for the tow to proceed inbound to Kiliuda Bay. Weather forecasts are monitored 72 hours in advance and data will be obtained daily from local marine weather stations as determined along the route.


Safety of the response personnel remains the number one priority. While the timeline is still difficult to define, Unified Command is committed to seeing this response through to a safe conclusion. It is important to understand that as recovery operations develop, it may be necessary for plans to be altered to address new issues or concerns.


An extensive collection of oil spill response equipment has been staged in Old Harbor and will be staged in Kiliuda Bay while the Kulluk is anchored there.  During the tow, the Nanuq will run between the Kulluk and the coast. The Nanuq is completely outfitted with oil spill response gear. The 500-yard radius marine safety zone will follow the tow and remain in place once the Kulluk is anchored in Kiliuda Bay. 

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