A move by Shell to avoid millions in Alaska state taxes may have backfired when the oil rig Kulluk ran aground Monday on Kodiak Island. The rig initially went adrift while it was being towed to a shipyard and tax shelter in Seattle. Instead, the vessel found itself literally stuck inside Alaska at the start of the new year.
The Kulluk grounded off Kodiak Island Monday night, prompting a 500-plus person response. According to Shell Operations Manager Sean Churchfield, the grounding occurred during a fierce storm that produced near-hurricane-force seas with waves exceeding 40 feet at times and wind gusts of 50 knots and higher.
"The conditions last night were very poor," Churchfield said. "It was a really unpleasant night to be out on the sea."
A Shell spokesman last week confirmed an Unalaska elected official's claim that the Dec. 21 departure of the Kulluk from Unalaska/Dutch Harbor involved taxation. City councilor David Gregory said Shell would pay between $6 and $7 million in state taxes if the Kulluk was still in Alaska on Jan. 1.