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According to KUCB, the community radio station in (the oddly named) Unalaska, Alaska:

Shell Oil has run into a number of problems with its Arctic drilling plans over the last few days. The Coast Guard refused to certify its oil spill containment barge, the EPA is reviewing the Noble Discoverer drill rig’s air permits — and now, there may be damage to the rig itself.

The Noble Discoverer appears to have run aground in Unalaska on Saturday afternoon.

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Well, of course. If you’re curious, here’s what the Noble Discoverer looks like. (The words “noble” and “discoverer” are not meant to be taken literally.)

Despite rain and 35-knot winds, more than a dozen residents came to Airport Beach to watch the Shell’s contract tugboat Lauren Foss straining to pull the rig back out to sea. …

Shell Alaska spokesman Curtis Smith says the company has activated a dive team to inspect the hull, which could help determine whether the ship actually touched bottom.

Shell is also evaluating the Noble Discoverer’s mooring system to determine how the vessel moved toward shore, he says. But Smith did not say that the ship had run aground.

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Late last month, the Department of the Interior okayed Shell to drill on Alaska’s North Slope. Luckily, it is a far simpler process to locate and drill into oil reserves through deep, turbulent ocean waters than it is to pilot a boat in broad daylight, so no doubt Shell will do just fine.

The harbor at Unalaska. Somehow, the owners of these boats kept from running aground. (Photo by matzaletel.)

Update: Shell says, no, no, it didn’t run aground, it just slipped its anchorage and was about to run aground.

“They (crew members) did not feel any bumps, or that it touched anything,” [Coast Guard spokeswoman Petty Officer Sara Francis] said. “There were no reports of any injuries, pollution or damage to the vessel.”

Shell Oil plans to have divers examine the ship’s hull Sunday as a precaution, Francis said.

One on-the-scene witness describes what he saw:

Discoverer has been a landmark parked in the bay in front of Safeway for the last couple of weeks.

Today it was closer to Safeway, and the Post Office. Very close. Scary close.

The anchor lost its grip in the sandy soil and the 50 mph winds pushed the big rig ashore. …

At first, one small tug- either Saratoga or the bigger Mike O’Leary- was struggling to pull the Discoverer off the shore. There were other boats all around, but they were standing by. The Discoverer was firing up its engines, as the black smoke indicated. But there it sat. My guess was it was about 80 yards off shore, close enough to be grounded.

In other words: The drilling ship appears to have not run aground, but was instead blowing around in the water and headed toward shore. And here we thought Shell was incompetent.

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