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Icebreaker for Shell’s oil-spill response fleet needs Inupiaq name

JUNE 22, 2011

By Alex DeMarban

A lucky student from the North Slope Borough School District will name the new commercial icebreaker that Shell Oil will lease as part of its oil-spill response fleet in the Arctic Ocean.

The 360-foot-long, low-emission ship, under construction in Louisiana by Edison Chouest Offshore, is scheduled to launch late this summer. It will be ready for sea trials in January, said Capt. Michael Terminel, with Edison’s Alaska operations.

It will join the icebreaker Nanuq to support Shell’s proposed exploration drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas starting in summer 2012. One vessel will work in each sea, said Curtis Smith, Shell spokesman.

This September, Shell and Edison will host an Inupiaq naming contest for the ship – now simply dubbed Hull 247. To win, essays from students in the district must include descriptions of word origin, cultural significance, and the student’s personal connection to the word.

More information will be available to students once the school year begins.

The North Slope school district is working to preserve the ancient Inupiaq language. As part of the contest, Shell will award a total of $8,500 to Inupiaq language programs at winning schools.

A $5,000 grant will go to the school with the student that names the vessel. Smaller grants of $2,500 and $1,000 will go to the schools whose students name lifeboats No. 1 and No. 2.

The winning student will participate in the vessel christening and eat dinner with legendary musher DeeDee Jonrowe. Second- and third-place winners earn pizza parties for their classes.

The five-person selection committee will include representatives from the two companies and North Slope leaders such as borough Mayor Edward Itta.

With a 26-foot draft, the icebreaker can hold about 77 people. It comes complete with a hospital, firefighting equipment, helicopter pad, and towing capabilities with a 300-metric-ton winch.

“It has everything that we need,” said Terminel.

It will rank among the world’s most powerful icebreakers.

An outline of the naming contest, sent by Smith, said of the ship:

“It primary mission is to support offshore development in the Arctic. It is being built to Polar Code 3, which means it’s strong. With its hull at places over 3 inches thick with specially made steel and over 30,000 horsepower, it will be the most advanced and strongest United-States built, non-military ice breaker on the water. It will create over 100 jobs and will be the leader in vessel technology in the Arctic.”

The ship will serve Shell in place of foreign vessels now allowed to work in U.S. waters under a Jones Act exemption that goes away in 2017, said Terminel.

“Shell had to have a contract in place with a U.S. shipbuilder and we were grateful to be awarded with that contract,” he said.

Edison has constructed two icebreakers for the National Science Foundation, and built the Nanuq that’s also leased by Shell.

Residents of the village of Kaktovik named the Nanuq, which means polar bear in Inupiaq.

“It was painted blue and white (as opposed to orange) at the request of whalers who said the blue hull and white top would be the least likely colors to scare away whales,” said Smith, in an email.

More from Smith:

The Nanuq and Hull 247 are “centerpieces to our on-site oil spill response fleets (one for Chukchi, one for Beaufort). They have the ability to store over 5,000 barrels of discharge before offloading and they are equipped with fire retardant booms and a variety of arctic-tested skimmers.

Additionally, the decks of these anchor handlers hold smaller, more agile skimming boats that can be deployed over the rail by an onboard crane. True to their name, these vessels will set the anchors for the Kulluk and the Discoverer once on-site.”

The Kulluk and Discoverer are mobile drilling rigs.

Shell has submitted plans to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to drill up to four exploration wells in the Beaufort Sea and up to six exploration wells in the Chukchi Sea in 2012 and 2013.

Alex DeMarban can be reached at [email protected]


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