Shell's Arctic program hits new snag

July 7, 2015

The Fennica icebreaker vessel that Shell planned to use as part of its Chukchi Sea drilling operations had to return to Dutch Harbor in Alaska to undergo repairs after its hull was breeched, Finland-based Arctia Offshore reported today (7 July).

"Fennica was sailing on Unalaska Bay when she had an underwater hull damage by currently unknown reason," the Finnish shipowner said in a public statement. "When a leak in one of her ballast tanks was spotted, the vessel immediately returned to Dutch Harbor."

Arctia said no harm to the environment was caused during the incident, and there was no danger to the crew. Divers checked the hull and a maintenance plan was formed. Arctia said once maintenance is complete, the Fennica will resume its duties for Shell offshore Alaska.

The Fennica was built in 1993 at Aker Finnyards. The vessel measures 116m long by 26m wide. It has a diesel-electric engine from Wartsila and two Aquamaster azimuth thrusters producing 15MW. It also has a bollard pull of 230-ton.

The vessel has been under charter with Shell since 2012.

While two of Shell's contracted drilling rigs — the Polar Pioneer and the Noble Discoverer — have already left for the Burger prospect in the Chukchi Sea, Shell's program has not gone so smoothly.  In addition to protesters in kayaks trying to block the two aforementioned drillships from leaving the Seattle, Washington-area, on 30 June, the US Fish and Wildlife Service ruled that the supermajor could not simultaneously bore two wells into the Chukchi Sea due to certain wildlife protections for walruses, polar bears, and other marine mammals. It ruled that both rigs can be in the area, but they are not allowed to operate at the same time.

Shell has spent US$1 billion on this summer's Arctic drilling program.

Image: Fennica/Arctia Offshore

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