Escopeta rig heads to Cook Inlet

The Spartan Drilling Co. Blake 151 jack-up rig under contract to Houston-based independent Escopta Oil and Gas Co. departed Vancouver, British Columbia, for Alaska's Cook Inlet July 20, an Escopeta spokesman said.

The rig is under tow by three ocean tugs operated by Foss Maritime. It is expected to arrive in Cook Inlet on approximately Aug. 1, company spokesman Steve Sutherland said.

Escopta has been at the center of controversy over an attempt to transport the Blake 151 rig from the U.S. Gulf of Mexico to Alaska without a waiver of the U.S. Jones Act. Escopeta chartered a Chinese heavy-left vessel to move the rig while attempting to negotiate the Jones Act waiver with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. When the negotiations failed the heavy-lift vessel with the rig diverted to Vancouver, where modifications were done that had been planned to be done in Alaska.

Although the Blake 151 is now being towed by U.S. Vessels with a route up the Inside Passage of Southeast Alaska and across the Gulf of Alaska, there may still be a Jones Act violation declared when the jack-up rig reaches Cook Inlet.

Sutherland said negotiations are continuing and that the company could make no comment on a possible violation or a penalty that might be paid.

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