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Shell oil to unveil massive icebreaker ship in Alaska

LAROSE, La. -- A longtime Shell contractor has nearly completed a massive, customized icebreaking ship for the company's drilling projects in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska.

The icebreaker is part of a specialized fleet Shell hopes to deploy for exploration drilling next summer, if it can clear all the legal and regulatory hurdles.

Named the Aiviq, the Eskimo word for walrus, the $200 million, 360-foot steel vessel's main job will be to move anchor lines that will attach drilling rigs to the sea floor in the shallow Arctic. But it's also on standby in case of an oil spill -- it could recover about 10,000 barrels of spilled crude. The ship was designed to cut through ice a meter thick and likely will be able to move through thicker ice, its builder says. It can operate at minus 58 degrees.

Shell points to the ship as evidence that it's serious about drilling in -- and protecting -- the fragile Arctic.

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