A close call for the 'Kulluk': better planning needed before more oil and gas traffic in Arctic waters comments WWF Canada.
The Kulluk, a conical, Arctic-class drill ship, was being towed from the Beaufort Sea in Alaskan Arctic waters back to Seattle following Shell’s first drilling season in the region. Its tow vessel lost control of the massive platform during a harsh winter storm, resulting in the ship, carrying over 136,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 10,000 gallons of lubes and oils, to be grounded on Sitkalidak Island, a pristine island near two salmon streams and ocean bay estuary.
Currently, the ability to respond to spills is questionable, but the limited ability could be improved with smart and informed planning to make sure that the most sensitive areas were protected.
Should an oil spill have occurred, baseline and real-time data is essential to understand how wind and current will affect spilled oil and response measures. It can also help in determining if the oil will travel across international boundaries, or into environmentally sensitive areas such as estuaries, bird rookeries, and marine mammal habitat.
Before mishaps like this happen in Canadian Arctic waters, whether through oil and gas, shipping, tourism, or other marine traffic, it is necessary to get the best available data of the environmental conditions and if possible, real-time conditions, to allow for response. This could assist in emergency response planning and would inform industries if there are times and places where the risks are too high and the environment too sensitive to allow for industrial activities.
Source: WWF Canada Blog