Days before a Shell drillship went aground in the storm-tossed Gulf of Alaska, it was clear that towing failures could spell disaster for the vessel, the crew and the marine environment, a company official told a U.S. Coast Guard panel on Monday.

The Kulluk, having completed preliminary drilling on an exploration well in the Beaufort Sea, broke away from its tow lines, and support vessels attempting to regain control of the drillship developed their own engine and mechanical problems, Norman Custard, Royal Dutch Shell's Alaska emergency response leader, told the panel.

Custard said he began planning for a crew evacuation on December 27, four days before the Kulluk grounded off Kodiak Island.

Facebook Twitter RSS