Royal Dutch Shell has confirmed that an icebreaker vessel planned to be used to drill offshore Alaska has returned to port after a hole was spotted in its hull.

As the vessel MSV Fennica returned to the Dutch Harbor in Alaska, the company’s plan to resume drilling in the Arctic later in July has jeopardised its drilling schedule.

Crew members are said to have found a hole that is nearly 1m-long in Fennica’s ballast tank at the time when it was leaving Dutch Harbor’s channel.

In June, Shell announced plans to restart drilling for oil in the Arctic off Alaska after obtaining a conditional approval by the US.

"Any impact to our season will ultimately depend on the extent of the repair."

Shell spokeswoman Kelly op de Weegh said in an e-mail to Reuters: "Any impact to our season will ultimately depend on the extent of the repair."

Owned by Arctia Offshore, Fennica is a primary ice management vessel in the Port of Helsinki and carries the capping stack that would be used by the company to cap a well in case of a blowout.

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Fennica was built in 1993 by Finnyards in Rauma, Finland, and has a maximum overall length of 116m.

It has a moulded breadth of 26m and depth of 12.5m and weighs 7,935t.

In May, the company secured approval from the US Department of the Interior for its drilling programme in the Arctic.

Image: Finnish icebreaker Fennica is owned by Arctia Offshore. Photo: courtesy of Marcusroos.