Finally, the Royal Dutch drilling unit Kulluk has a happy chapter in its tortured journey out of Alaska.
Officials confirmed Monday that the Kulluk reached safe harbor in Kiliuda Bay about 10 a.m. Monday after a 45-mile tow lasting about 12 hours from where the vessel ran aground off of Sitkalidak Island nearly a week ago.
Exactly where the Kulluk will sit in secluded Kiliuda Bay will be determined by environmental conditions, including weather, officials said. The extent of the vessel's damages from its grounding will be examined there.
The Coast Guard Cutter Alex Haley escorted the Kulluk and its tow tug the Aiviq -- along with two oil spill response vessels and other support vessels. A 500-yard radius safety zone around the Kulluk remains in place in Kiliuda Bay, which is far more shelted from nasty weather blowing that sometimes blows in from the Gulf of Alaska.
No signs of any oil discharge during the trip were seen.
Unified Command continues to coordinate with the Old Harbor Native Corporation to assist with any necessary cleanup activities. Additional spill response resources have been staged in the small community of Old Harbor on Kodiak Island.
The Salvage Master began the tow Sunday night, and the Kulluk was successfully refloated about 10:10 p.m.
Leading the tow was the Aiviq, the Shell tug vessel that was originally hauling the Kulluk prior to multiple engine failures that spurred the whole mishap more than a week ago. The Crowley-owned tug vessel Alert also helped with the tow.
Clouds, rain and wind dominated the Gulf of Alaska on Sunday, pushing back the start of the tow. Officials from the Unified Command -- a joint response team consisting of the Coast Guard, Shell, Kulluk operator Noble Corporation, and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation -- said a tow line was secured to the Kulluk on Sunday in anticipation of the tow. Ten members of a salvage team and one Shell representative were aboard the Kulluk and expected to stay on board until the tow had been completed.
There was still no report of any leaks from the Kulluk, which is carrying up to 150,000 gallons of diesel and another 12,000 gallons of other potentially hazardous fluids.
Contact Ben Anderson at ben(at)alaskadispatch.com