Investigators believe that a cargo ship of 1,200 feet (366 meters) carrying an anchor in rough seas caught an undersea oil pipeline and pulled the pipe across the seafloor. This happened months before a spillage from the line contaminated the coastline of Southern California with crude.
Just hours after the ship arrived at the Port of Long Beach this weekend, a team of federal investigators boarded MSC DANIT Panama-registered to investigate the cause of the spillage. This was the exact area where the leak was first discovered in October.
Coast Guard Lt. J.g. believes that the anchor was dragging for unknown distances during a January storm. SondraKay Kneen stated Sunday.
Kneen stated that the impact would have knocked off a one-inch thick concrete casing from the pipe, pulling it over 100 feet (30 m), but not breaking it.
Kneen stated that it is still unclear if the October leak was caused by an impact or if the line was damaged due to a preexisting condition.
She said, “We are still looking at multiple ships and scenarios.”
Saturday’s Coast Guard investigation into the spillage revealed that the operator and owner were parties of interest. The spillage was estimated to have released approximately 25,000 gallons (94.635 liters), of crude oil into the water, killing fish and birds.
A few miles from Huntington Beach, Orange County, the accident caused a pollution of beaches and wetlands. It also led to temporary closures in order to do cleanup. Although it was not as severe as originally thought, the incident has rekindled the debate about offshore drilling in federal waters of the Pacific. This is where hundreds of miles worth of pipelines were placed decades ago.
MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company is the operator of DANIT. It is located in Switzerland and boasts 600 vessels and more that 100,000 employees, according to the company.
MSC representatives didn’t respond immediately to emails seeking comment. The company’s Geneva headquarters was answered by a security guard who said that it would be closed on Monday.
The Coast Guard identified the vessel’s owner as Dordellas Finance Corporation. However, they were unable to reach them for comment.
According to marine traffic monitoring sites, the DANIT arrived in Long Beach on Saturday after traveling from China.
An investigation into the cause of the spillage could result in criminal or civil penalties. Kneen stated that the probe could go on for several months.
According to Coast Guard, attorneys for MSC or Dordellas will be able to cross-examine witnesses from the government and call their own witnesses. The investigation includes other agencies and the National Transportation Safety Board.
After a team consisting of at least five investigators spent a lot of Saturday onboard the ship, Kneen declined to comment on whether any damage was done to the anchor of the DANIT.
Investigators have inspected logs from at least two other vessels that were boarded previously. They are now examining the logs of the officers, captains, engineers, and voyage data recorders, which is equivalent to the black box on planes.
Amplify Energy, a Houston-based owner, thanked Coast Guard for their continued efforts in the case.
Representatives of Amplify have not responded directly to questions regarding the hours-long delay between the alarm signalling a problem with the pipeline, and the company reporting the leakage to federal authorities.