Critics Say Grounding Shows Arctic Drilling Danger

Waves crash over the conical drilling unit Kulluk where it sits aground on the southeast side of Sitkalidak Island, Alaska, Jan. 1, 2013. The crew of the tug Alert was ordered to separate from the Kulluk at approximately 8:15 p.m., Dec. 31st to maintain the safety of the nine crewmembers aboard the vessel.
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) -- Environmentalists say the grounding of a Royal Dutch Shell PLC drill ship on a remote Gulf of Alaska island shows that oil companies are not ready to drill in Arctic Ocean waters, which are even more remote.

The drill ship Kulluk ran aground in a fierce North Pacific storm Monday night off an uninhabited island near Kodiak.

Marilyn Heiman of the Pew Environment Group says near hurricane-force wind and waves are typical of the North Pacific and the Arctic. She says the conditions and the lack of infrastructure in the north would make marine mammals vulnerable to a petroleum spill.

Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith says the company will learn from the grounding and remains confident that it can operate safely in Arctic conditions.

On Wednesday, a team of six salvage experts conducted a three-hour structural assessment of the Kulluk for use in the final salvage plan.

(Copyright 2012 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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