The Fennica. Image courtesy of Royal Dutch Shell/Flickr.

Royal Dutch Shell confirmed on Tuesday that an ice breaking vessel hauling a key piece of equipment was forced to dock for repairs after workers discovered a 39 inch hole in the vessel’s hull.

A Shell spokesman told the AP that the crew aboard the Fennica ice breaking vessel discovered a leak in the ship’s ballast tank on Friday as it was departing the channel in Dutch Harbor, Alaska.

The hull breach is reportdley 39 inches long and half an inch wide.

Shell has not determined if the damage can be repaired in Dutch Harbor or if the vessel will have to be dry docked.

The spokesman added that poor weather conditions prevented an inspector from reaching Dutch Harbor for two days.

The Fennica is hauling a capping stack and is one of several support vessels Shell has mobilized to kick off its revamped Arctic exploration plan.

According to Shell, the Fennica is the primary ice management vessel in support of the Noble Discoverer drilling rig that is set to explore the Chukchi Sea.

Shell is considering other options if the Fennica can not complete its trek that could include moving the equipment to another vessel for transport, the AP said.

The cause of the damage is still unknown.

Earlier this month, the U.S. Interior Department said that Shell can not simultaneously drill two wells in offshore Alaska as the company had initially planned after complaints from several environmentalist groups.

The Interior Department found that Shell’s exploration plan did not adhere to a 2013 Fish and Wildlife Service rule that prohibits companies from simultaneously drilling wells within 15 miles of each other.

The company can still drill one well at a time, although it is unclear how that move would affect the company’s plans to explore Alaska’s offshore Burger Prospect.

A company spokesperson told the Alaska Dispatch News last week that Shell is reviewing its permit and plans to move foward with its U.S. Arctic campaign.


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