Noble Corporation has declared force majeure on a drilling contract with Shell in the US Gulf of Mexico after its ultra-deepwater drillship Globetrotter II was hit by Hurricane Ida, said the rig owner on late Thursday afternoon US time.

Noble said that the crew members still onboard the Globetrotter II are in no danger and the living quarters are operating normally.

Initial findings from an ongoing condition assessment indicate significant damage was done to the drillship's drilling equipment by the Category 4 hurricane, which had winds of 150 miles (241 kilometres) per hour.

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“Several riser joints and the lower marine riser package separated from the rig during the storm and sank to the seabed. Efforts are underway to locate and recover that equipment,” the company said.

“Additionally, one of the ship’s cofferdams in the moonpool area sustained damage during the weather event.”

Noble said it successfully secured the well and detached from the blowout preventer before leaving the area on 28 August.

“Noble provided a force majeure notice to its customer in accordance with the governing drilling services contract. The contract does not contain a right of termination for force majeure,” the company said.

The Globetrotter II’s inability to avoid Ida became national news after crewmembers sent video and pictures to television stations across the Gulf Coast showing what they said was damage to the ship and its drilling equipment incurred during the storm.

Noble said on 29 August that the vessel “maintained stability throughout the weather event.”

Noble chief executive Robert Eifler said in a letter dated Wednesday 2 September to Noble employees, and provided to Upstream by a source familiar with the events, that the Globetrotter II was delayed leaving the wellsite, which caused it to remain in Ida’s path.

“Some of the work we needed to complete to ensure the integrity of the well took longer than expected and, simultaneously, Hurricane Ida advanced more quickly than was forecast,” he said.

Even though the Globetrotter II left the area on 28 August and headed east, Ida moved farther east than expected as well.

“As a result, the Noble Globetrotter II remained closer to the critical path of the storm than expected,” Eifler said.