“A vessel slipping anchor at an anchorage, while not a common event, is not rare, either,” said Coast Guard Cmdr. Chris O’Neil, the Washington, D.C.-based head spokesman. He is in Alaska for a month to monitor and learn more about expanding Arctic operations.
What’s all this landlubber talk (especially from a USCG Cmdr. assigned to monitor arctic drilling) about the DISCO “slipping anchor” or the “anchor slipping”? The anchor was “dragging,” not “slipping.” We are all familiar with “dragging anchor,” a very common event about which mariners must be constantly vigilant. However, to “slip” an anchor means to cast it off. “Slipping” an anchor would be a very rare event that hopefully most of us will never experience.
27 to 35 knots of wind is a gentle breeze by Dutch Harbor standards. The way the wind funnels through the mountains into Dutch Harbor its is often blowing twice as hard inside Dutch than it is a few miles offshore. Why didn’t they take the simple precaution of keeping the pilot onboard in an unfamiliar harbor that is famous for its often violent local conditions?
It will be interesting to see how this situation unfolds and how what additional information is reported. Within a few minutes of this unfortunate mishap, the master undoubtedly tested the steering gear (and perhaps rolled over the prop). If the ship grounded (and it appears to be very highly unlikely that it wasn’t aground), and there was damage to the rudder or prop, the master (and presumably Noble and Shell) knew this before Shell made its first comments to the press.
I find it hard to believe that the entire fleet of Shell vessels in Dutch Harbor (between them all) did not have a “dive team” onboard. If they don’t, they are not properly equipped to be operating in remote Alaska. They certainly didn’t need to wait until Monday to fly in a dive team for the initial inspection, Magone Marine — www.magonemarine.com — probably could have provided a competent dive team to inspect the ship within an hour, and I find it hard to believe that the DISCO failed to immediately avail itself of Dan Magone’s services to inspect the rudder. A master needs to know whether or not he can use the ship’s rudder and propulsion.
The way this incident is handled going forward will be even more of a window into Shell’s competence and trustworthiness.