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Drill vessels to be sent from Alaska to Asia

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 11, 2013 at 11:39 pm •  Published: February 11, 2013

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A damaged floating drill rig and a drill ship that were both involved in Arctic petroleum exploration last summer off Alaska's northern coast will be "dry towed" to shipyards in Asia for assessments and repairs, a Shell Alaska spokesman said Monday.

Dry towing involves loading such cargo on even larger vessels for transport.

The two Royal Dutch Shell PLC vessels are the drill rig Kulluk and drill ship Noble Discoverer.

After summer exploration in the Beaufort Sea, the Kulluk ran aground on New Year's Eve near Kodiak Island as it was being towed to Seattle for maintenance and broke free in a storm. It was refloated and taken to a sheltered harbor.

Once a tow plan is approved, the Kulluk will be towed to Dutch Harbor, then prepared for a dry tow transport to Asia, spokesman Curtis Smith said, adding its Asian destination has not yet been decided.

The Noble Discoverer operated in the Chukchi Sea.

Noble Drilling consulted with Shell and decided to send the drill ship from Seward, Alaska, where it has been docked, to a shipyard in South Korea. The Coast Guard found safety problems with the Noble Discoverer.

Work on the Discoverer originally was to be completed in Washington state, Smith said via email.

"That scope increased due to issues with the main propulsion system on the vessel," he said. "If there is a need to replace that system, including the engine, it would need to be done in a shipyard with a suitable dry dock facility — therefore the change to Korea."

He did not immediately know which Korean shipyard was selected.

Smith estimated it could take three to six weeks "for arrival of the dry tow vessels and pickup of the Kulluk and Discoverer."

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