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The crew aboard the Kulluk was evacuated Saturday night after the ship was stranded in rough Gulf of Alaska waters.
The rig was being towed from Alaska's Aleutian Islands to Seattle on Thursday when the towing vessel's engines failed. It ran into trouble on Friday when high winds and 20-foot waves prevented a rescue tug from towing the ship back to safety, reports AP.
Coast guard helicopters evacuated the 18 crew members aboard the ship on Saturday afternoon, battling fierce winds of 40 miles-per-hour.
"The weather on scene is testing the limits of our Coast Guard crews," Rear Adm. Thomas Ostebo, Alaska district commander,told the Alaska Dispatch. "The professionalism of our air crews and cutter men and women have prevented the situation from deteriorating further."
The Kulluk is one of two drill ships that Shell is operating this year in the Artic Ocean's short open water season. According to AP, "it was designed for extended drilling in Arctic waters, and has an ice-reinforced, funnel-shape hull 266 feet in diameter."
The oil company has invested $4.5 billion in offshore leases and equipment and fought dozens of lawsuits from environmental groups to begin drilling the first wells in American Arctic waters in about 20 years, reports Bloomberg.