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Shell Oil drilling vessel is adrift in Gulf of Alaska

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drilling vesselAn unmanned mobile oil drilling rig owned by Royal Dutch Shell is adrift -- again -- south of Kodiak Island after it lost towlines Sunday afternoon from two vessels trying to hold it in place against what have been pummeling winds and high seas, according to incident management leaders.

A team of 250 people from the Coast Guard, the state of Alaska, Shell, and one of its contractors was hunkered down Sunday, mainly in Midtown Anchorage's Frontier Building, trying to resolve the ongoing crisis with Shell's drilling rig, the Kulluk.

Before the latest turn for the worse, representatives of Shell, the Coast Guard and the state Department of Environmental Conservation told reporters in a briefing early Sunday afternoon that the situation was critical, but under control.

Then towlines from two Shell-contracted support vessels, the Aiviq and the Nanuq, "separated," the joint command team said in a statement sent out at about 4:30 p.m. The setback happened sometime after 1 p.m., just as commanders were briefing news media on what appeared at that point to be a successful response after a series of failures. They didn't yet know the towlines had broken free, said Shell spokesman Curtis Smith, who is part of the unified incident command team.


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