"Shell May Be Ready for the Arctic, But Its Oil Spill Barge Isn't"

"SEATTLE — A unique ice-class barge designed to clean up any oil spills that might result from Shell Alaska’s upcoming operations in the Arctic Ocean has so far failed to acquire final U.S. Coast Guard certification. Engineers from the oil company say it's no longer appropriate to require them to meet the rigorous weather standards originally proposed."

"Further, sea trials for the Arctic Challenger — a 37-year-old barge undergoing a multimillion-dollar retrofit — have been delayed in Washington state as federal  inspectors insist on improvements to electrical, piping and fire protection systems, a senior Coast Guard inspector confirmed Thursday.

The delay in certification adds another notch of uncertainty to Shell’s narrow window for operations in the Arctic, which already is tight because drilling must halt by September in the Chukchi Sea and by October in the Beaufort Sea to avoid the dangerous advance of sea ice that comes with winter. Though drilling initially was scheduled to commence by mid-July, unusually heavy sea ice from the past winter has postponed that, probably until the first week of August."

Kim Murphy reports for the Los Angeles Times July 5, 2012.
 

Source: LA Times, 07/06/2012