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Salvage & Spill Response

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Offshore Energy: a Golden Opportunity for Alaska and the United States

By Brigham A. McGown

As we enter the ? nal quarter of the numbered more than 30 boats and aircraft.

year, one of the last and most press- The ripple effects of offshore drilling in the Arctic ex- ing pieces of business facing the Inte- tend far beyond the region however, creating opportunities rior Department is to ? nalize its next thousands of miles away, from Seattle to Maine and beyond. offshore leasing program, which will Ports in the Puget Sound area, a maritime and industrial specify exactly which parts of the Unit- hub that has supported resource development in Alaska for ed States’ Outer Continental Shelf will more than a hundred years, host many of the support vessels be open to oil and gas development be- bound for the Arctic. Stevedores, electricians, welders, engi- tween 2017 and 2022. neers, hydraulic technicians and equipment operators there,


Having already cut the Atlantic from will all play an essential role in preparing the different ves- its proposed program back in March, the smoke signals sels by providing fuel, specialized equipment and repair and coming from Washington suggest that the Administration maintenance services. In total, Shell spent $313 million sup- is now considering doing the same with the two proposed porting its Alaska program there, between 2006 and 2014.

Arctic lease sales, leaving the Gulf of Mexico as the only area Importantly, energy development in the Arctic could of America’s OCS open for offshore energy development. also play a major role in bolstering Alaska’s offshore infra-

Such a decision would have wide ranging and signi? cant structure. In a 2015 Department of Energy commissioned implications for a number of maritime industries. That’s report on the subject; the National Petroleum Council because of all of the places around the world where the oil noted the “many synergies between the types of infrastruc- and gas industry operates; there are few which will require ture that would facilitate Arctic oil and gas exploration and more equipment and support services than the Arctic. development and the infrastructure needs of local commu-

To take Shell’s previous campaign in the Chukchi Sea as nities, the state of Alaska, and elements of the U.S. Forces a single example, it included two icebreakers, two drilling such as the Coast Guard and Navy.” units, two ice management vessels, three anchor handlers, These synergies have played out in real time on at least two three offshore support vessels, two oil spill response tugs, occasions in recent years, when the Coast Guard has had to three helicopters and three aircraft - including one solely rely on industry to conduct rescue missions for other vessels dedicated to ice reconnaissance, all part of a ? otilla which stranded in the area. As a former Mayor of Dutch Harbor surmised the situation, “Shell’s substantial support vessels are some of the only emergency response assets we have in the

Arctic now.” Make that had in the Alaskan Arctic.

This argument is true for all facets of Arctic infrastruc- ture, but is especially worth noting in the case of oil spill response. It’s only through investment by industry that the

Arctic will develop a comprehensive international spill pre- vention and response plan. That may sound counterintui- tive, but there is a real need for such an agreement; Russia and other countries continue to develop their own Arctic resources and at present there is very little in the way of an integrated, international response strategy.

Oil spills do not respect international boundaries clearly, so the United States should lead the way in creating a ro- bust set of regulations which lay out exactly how industry must respond in the event of a spill. We can only claim a

Credit: Shell & Brigham McGown

October 2016

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MN Oct16 Layout 18-31.indd 18 9/21/2016 3:12:52 PM

Marine News

Marine News is the premier magazine of the North American Inland, coastal and Offshore workboat markets.