(June 24 WSB photo of SBX, taken from Jack Block Park)
By Tracy Record
West Seattle Blog editor
It’s dominated the Harbor Island view for two months, and while it’s not scheduled to leave Vigor (formerly Todd) Shipyard for another month or so, you will see the SBX (military Sea-Based X-Band missile-detecting radar, aka “that thing that looks like a giant golf/ping-pong ball”) move around a bit this week.
That’s because, according to a marine-industry advisory obtained by WSB, a floating offshore-oil-drilling platform is coming into the shipyard, so SBX must move temporarily while the drilling rig is maneuvered into place. That rig is a story unto itself:
(2010 photo of Kulluk by Flickr member Anyaku2419)
It’s “an Arctic-class drill ship” called the Kulluk, owned by Shell, which is getting it into shape in hopes of obtaining Arctic offshore-drilling permits that, according to reports like this, it’s been trying to get for six years.
The 1983-built Kulluk had been idle for more than a decade, after years of Arctic drilling, before being reactivated; it has most recently been based in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, and left there July 1st for the journey here.
According to the advisory about Kulluk’s arrival and SBX’s temporary move, Shell is expected to issue a news release about the Kulluk sometime today. As of very early this morning, marinetraffic.com showed its accompanying tugs – Kulluk itself was not providing a signal – in the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and it’s expected in Elliott Bay by Tuesday morning.
Meantime, SBX is expected to move to an anchorage area in west Elliott Bay by early afternoon Tuesday, and to conduct various tests before returning to Vigor sometime Tuesday evening, once the Kulluk is in place. The advisory says the 500-yard security zone around SBX will be maintained wherever it is, so that could make for some varied ferry/Water Taxi routing on Tuesday.
ADDED 11:32 AM: Shell’s statement, received by e-mail:
In anticipation of a 2012 offshore Alaska drilling season, Shell will move the Kulluk drilling unit from Dutch Harbor, Alaska to the shipyard in Seattle, Washington for ongoing maintenance and planned, technical upgrades. The Kulluk is identified as a primary drilling unit in Shell’s 2012 Beaufort Sea Plan of Exploration. Once the upgrades are complete, Dutch Harbor will remain a staging ground for the Kulluk and other Shell vessels as we pursue exploration drilling on our leases in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.