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Kulluk debacle multibillion-dollar implications for Arctic oil drilling

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Vessel sits in Everett as probe of accident unfolds

By Noah Haglund, Herald Writer:  Published: Sunday, September 1, 2013, EVERETT — The walrus has basked for months in the relative warmth of Port Gardner after an unlucky Alaskan winter.She’s expected to linger on the waterfront, perhaps through the end of the year, in all of her white and blue metallic splendor.The walrus visiting the Port of Everett is no tusked marine mammal. The 360-foot ice-class anchor handler is built to tow Arctic oil rigs.The ship’s given name, Aiviq, means walrus in Inupiaq, a language spoken by northwest Alaska natives.

While physically at a standstill, the Aiviq sits at the center of a federal investigation with multibillion-dollar implications for Arctic oil drilling. The U.S. Coast Guard probe seeks to answer why a massive oil rig the Aiviq was towing last winter broke loose and ran aground in the Gulf of Alaska.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC, which was overseeing the operation, announced in February it would temporarily freeze its Arctic push. In the meantime, the Aiviq is likely to remain tied up in Everett.

“Our future exploration plans for offshore Alaska will depend on a number of factors,” said Megan Baldino, a Shell Alaska spokeswoman. “That includes the readiness of our rigs and confidence that lessons learned from our 2012 drilling program have been fully incorporated.” read more

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