The Shell drilling rig that ran aground off the Alaskan coast on New Year’s Eve was secured on Monday, officials said. The drilling rig Kulluk, pictured here on January 3, ran aground near an uninhabited island after a winter storm caused it to break free from the tug boat cables used to tow the vessel to Seattle. The grounding is the most recent in a string of setbacks for Shell’s Arctic drilling efforts and has given more evidence to critics charging that Shell and other international drilling companies are not yet Arctic ready.
The prospect of slower commercial activity in the Arctic should give pause to U.S. policymakers making plans for the Arctic. In particular, the resources necessary to protect U.S interests in the region – such as Coast Guard search and rescue and spill response assets – will depend in part on the pace of commercial activity in the region. These recent Arctic incidents should encourage policymakers to recalibrate their assumptions about activity in the region.
Photo: On January 3, the Kulluk remained grounded 40 miles southwest of Kodiak City, Alaska. Courtesy of the U.S. Coast Guard.