Major embarrassment for Shell as Arctic oil drilling ship slips its anchor and ends up 'grounded' in Alaska harbour
- Noble Discoverer drifted into Dutch Harbor in 35mph winds on Saturday
- Coastguard claims there are no signs of grounding
- But local captain takes photo 'proving' 571ft-long vessel was on the beach
No damage has been found on a Shell oil drilling ship that lost its mooring and drifted into an Alaska harbour on Saturday, the Coast Guard has said.
Video captured by divers who examined the hull of the 571ft-long rig Noble Discoverer shows no signs of grounding, it is claimed.
The ship slipped its anchorage on Saturday in winds up to 35mph, drifting extremely close to shore in Dutch Harbor.
Just how close is still a subject of hot debate - one local captain disputed initial reports that said the Discoverer came within 100 years of shore.
Kristjan Laxfoss took photos that he claims show the vessel came much closer to land and prove it was not moving and grounded.
Grounded? Shell oil drilling rig the Noble Discoverer lies in Alaska's Dutch Harbor after losing its mooring on Saturday. Local harbour captain Kristjan Laxfoss claims this photo shows the vessel clearly ran aground
Port: The ship slipped its anchorage on Saturday in winds up to 35 mph, drifting extremely close to shore in Dutch Harbor (pictured)
He said: 'There's no question it hit the beach. That ship was not coming any closer. It was on the beach.'
But Coast Guard investigators say otherwise.
Lt Jim Fothergill said: 'We are still reviewing the video. However, what I can tell you is that there is no physical evidence that suggests that they hit bottom.
'We believe if they did ground, it was a very soft grounding.'
Earlier footage taken by a remotely operated vehicle also shows no damage, he said. There have also been no reports of injury or pollution.
The Discoverer, owned by Noble Corp, is among a Shell fleet to soon head north for planned exploratory drilling in the Arctic waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort seas.
The ship is now anchored 750yards from land after it was towed offshore following the mishap.
Shell spokesman Curtis Smith said about 120 crew members were on board when the Discoverer dragged anchor.
They remain on board gearing up to begin the journey to the Arctic in late July.
Mr Smith said the trip will take four or five days, and the company aims to begin drilling in early August.
Battling evil: Actress Lucy Lawless as Xena (left) and taking part in a Greenpeace protest aboard the Discoverer in February (right)
True believer: The environmentalist waves a placard aboard the drilling ship Noble Discoverer in an attempt to stop it from sailing to Alaska
Drilling in Arctic waters is bitterly opposed by environmental groups and some Alaska residents.
Their lawsuits and permit appeals have prevented Shell from drilling in the Chukchi Sea, where the subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell spent $2.1billion on leases in 2008. Shell also holds older leases in the Beaufort Sea and hopes to drill exploratory wells this summer in both locations.
Environmentalists say the anchorage problem is yet another reason to question Shell's Arctic plan, particularly after the same vessel ran into a mooring problem in a severe storm in New Zealand waters last year.
The Discoverer had been drilling an exploratory well off the South Taranaki coast.
New Zealand officials say three of eight anchor cables broke after the crew had already disconnected from the oil well when alerted to bad weather approaching.
Soon after the incident, Shell officials said there were no injuries or harm to the environment or the well, and that the vessel sustained minor damage and was repaired.
The incident was investigated by New Zealand officials, who said no further action was warranted.
Mr Smith said Shell has been excited about the Arctic project for a long time, but that the Discoverer incident temporarily damped that excitement.
He said: 'Anytime something like this happens operationally, you have to take it extremely seriously.
'Our goal is always flawless execution, and when that doesn't happen - either in port or offshore - it's unacceptable.'
Video: Actress Lucy Lawless protests for Greenpeace...