Environmentalists for years have said conditions are too harsh and the stakes too high to allow industrial development in the Arctic, where drilling sites are 1,000 miles or more from the closest Coast Guard base.
Two national organizations kept up the criticism Thursday by calling for a halt to all permitting for Arctic offshore drilling in the wake of the grounding.
"This string of mishaps by Shell makes it crystal clear that we are not ready to drill in the Arctic," said Chuck Clusen of the Natural Resources Defense Council. "Shell is not Arctic-ready. We have lost all faith in Shell, and they certainly don't have any credibility left."
Lois Epstein, a civil engineer who works for The Wilderness Society in Anchorage, said Shell has made troubling, non-precautionary decisions that put workers and the Coast Guard at risk.
"These ongoing technical and decision-making problems and their enormous associated costs and risks taken by our military personnel once there were problems should lead the federal government to reassess its previous permitting decisions regarding Shell," Epstein said.
Shell has maintained it has taken a heads-up approach to anticipating and reacting to problems.
Shell officials say the Kulluk had been towed more than 4,000 miles and has experienced similar storm conditions. Shell staged additional towing vessels along the route in case problems occurred, said Smith, the Shell spokesman.
"We know how to work in regions like this," Smith said. "Having said that, when flawless execution does not happen, you learn from it, and we will."