Shell icebreaker Fennica damage caused by uncharted shoal

San Francisco: The icebreaker Fennica, which suffered a gash to its hull last week while en route to Shell’s proposed Arctic drill site, may have been damaged by a previously uncharted shoal.

While the US Coast Guard (USCG) is still investigating the cause of the 39-inch by two-inch gash, the vessel’s Finnish owner Arctia Offshore, who contracted the Fennica to Shell, has asked the USCG to approve plans for sealing the hole.

The vessel is a crucial element of Shell’s Arctic fleet as it is loaded with a capping stack designed to fit on top of a damaged well in case of a blowout or other emergency. If it’s not ready it would put a crimp in Shell’s plans to start drilling in the Chukchi Sea, northwest of Alaska.

Shell was planning to start drilling in the third week of July, pending some minor clearances, and that would mark the oil giant’s return to Arctic drilling for the first time in three years.

The USCG announced that hydrographic surveyors discovered the shoal but they would not speculate as to whether it was the cause of the breach in the Fennica.

Donal Scully

With 28 years experience writing and editing for newspapers in the UK and Hong Kong, Donal is now based in California from where he covers the Americas for Splash as well as ensuring the site is loaded through the Western Hemisphere timezone.
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