On January 1, the New York Times reported on a Shell Oil offshore drilling rig that had run aground in the Gulf of Alaska. The oil-rig had approximately 139,000 gallons of diesel fuel as well as another 12,000 gallons of hydraulic fluid and lubricating oil.
This new incident has exacerbated safety concerns about oilrigs in the Gulf of Alaska. While no one was injured in this incident, the rig had to be disconnected from a towline keeping it in place in rough seas out of concerns for the safety of the crew. Salvage crews also had to work to attach a line to the rig and tow ship to remove the rig from the location where it was marooned. These crews were all at risk in the choppy, cold waters in the Arctic and 18 workers aboard the rig had to be airlifted out on Coast Guard helicopters.
Offshore injury lawyers are concerned about the potential dangers to those involved in drilling operations in the Arctic and elsewhere. While any offshore oil rig can present risks, those in Alaska are in remote locations where it would be difficult for rescue crews to quickly gain access, especially in bad weather. Important safety measures need to be put in place and emergency operation plans perfected in order to protect crews involved in Alaska offshore drilling.
Breakaway Oil Rig Raises Concerns about Remote Location
The oil rig in the Gulf of Alaska, the Kulluk, ran aground a rocky coast of a remote uninhabited island called Sitkalidak. The incident occurred after prior efforts had been made to get the rig under control by reconnecting its towlines that had separated due to high winds and rough seas. Unfortunately, out of concern for the crew, the tow-lines at one point had to be disconnected. The towing ship for the rig also lost power during the bad weather and support ships had to be called in to reconnect the rig.
By January 7, however, the New York Times reported that the rig had been refloated and towed to safer water to be inspected. Monitoring equipment indicated that there had been no discharge of pollutants, relieving concerns by environmental experts worried about the diverse species in the region.
Although the rig is now out of danger, a January 2nd article on Time Science & Space still raises some important points about the safety of offshore rigs in the Gulf of Alaska.
Time compared this incident to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which occurred in the Gulf of Mexico. In 2010, while the Deepwater Horizon was a terrible disaster, it occurred in a location that made it easy to respond to the spill. Time reported that this was “like having a heart attack in the middle of a hospital,” since while the spill was bad, response time was very fast.
In Alaska, on the other hand, the area is very remote and it is much harder for rescue crews to get there quickly. This exacerbates the dangers of a potential oil spill and it also exacerbates the dangers to the crew aboard rigs in remote locations.
Unstable weather in the region is also cited as a cause for concern for Arctic drilling, and the dangers of both a remote location coupled with unpredictable winds and seas all come together to mean that workers’ on offshore rigs in this area may be more at risk than any other oilrig workers in the past. Safety measures must be in place to protect these workers from the risks that they face.
If you or a loved one suffered a maritime injury or have lost a relative in an offshore fatality, Call the Law Offices of William Gee III to speak to a maritime accident attorney at 1-800-488-5227 or contact us online today.