US Coast Guard investigators boarded a large cargo ship as they investigate what caused the rupture of an offshore oil pipeline that laundered crude oil on Southern California beaches.
The Rotterdam Express container ship travels as investigators try to determine whether an anchor clogged, dragged and pulled a pipeline owned by Amplify Energy, a Houston-based company that operates three offshore oil platforms south of Los Angeles. bowed down.
The Associated Press reported on Wednesday that the Rotterdam Express appeared to make a series of unusual movements while anchored at the nearest location, according to data collected by the Marine Navigation Service, where the break in the pipeline occurred. The AP reviewed more than two weeks of data from MarineTraffic, which tracks radio signals from transponders broadcasting the locations of ships and large boats every few minutes.
But in an email on Thursday, Marine Traffic spokesman Fotini Ceroni said the indicated movements for the Rotterdam Express were clearly incorrect and may have resulted from errors involving the ship’s GPS system. The company said it was removing the jump in case the ship was shown to remain at its anchorage.
The Rotterdam Express, a German-flagged ship about 1,000 feet (305 m) long, was assigned to anchor the SF-3, the nearest designated parking spot for ships, where the pipeline broke from Huntington Beach.
Hapag-Lloyd, the shipping company that operates the Rotterdam Express, confirmed on Thursday that investigators had boarded the ship on Wednesday while it was docked at the Port of Oakland in San Francisco Bay. The company has said that the ship did not play any role in the oil spill.
“We are cooperating fully with the authorities at this time,” said Nils Haupt, a spokesman for Hapag-Lloyd’s headquarters in Hamburg, Germany. He said that the ship remained in place during anchorage.
“We have evidence from the logbook, which is updated hourly, that the vessel did not move,” Haupt said. “The maritime traffic in this case is wrong and the situation is really wrong.”
A US official told the AP that the Rotterdam Express spill has become the focus of investigation. The officer cautioned that the ship is pursuing only one lead in the investigation, which is in its early stages.
The official said investigators are trying to collect tracking and navigational information from the ship to help them identify its exact movements. They are also seeking preliminary interviews with at least some crew members.
Officials could not discuss the investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer Steve Strohmayr declined to comment on the Rotterdam Express on Wednesday, but said the agency is analyzing electric charting systems from its vessel traffic service to see which ships are anchored. were or were moving in the spill area.
Marine traffic data reviewed by the AP showed that the Rotterdam Express arrived outside the Port of Long Beach early on September 22 and dropped anchor about 2,000 feet (610 m) from the pipeline. This was followed by a dramatic change in the ship’s position on three occasions over the following days, making it appear that the ship was swept over the pipeline.
Nicolas Xiros, a professor of marine engineering at the University of New Orleans, said the ship’s location data, which works through a global network called the Automatic Identification System, is known to be accurate and reliable to within a few feet. He said it would be very unusual for a ship to be thousands of feet away from its perceived position.
“GPS errors, even though they may be, are rarely of such magnitude even if the carrier is operating,” said Ziros, who noted that the wrong reading apparently occurred when the Rotterdam Express was at anchor. “Therefore, even if anything is possible, it is highly unlikely to observe such anomalies repeatedly on marine navigation GPS receivers when the ship is anchored close to shore and on a clear day.”
The AP sent an email Wednesday to the Unified Command Joint Information Center for state and federal agencies in response to the oil spill, seeking comment by the Rotterdam Express about movements made prior to the spill. Senior Chief Petty Officer Lauren Jorgensen said the command was unable to discuss matters related to the ongoing investigation.
The first reports of oil in the water near the pipeline were made on the evening of Friday, October 1. Amplify said the pipeline was shut down on Saturday morning, but did not say how long it believes oil flows through it.
Amplify CEO Martin Wilser said Tuesday that divers determined that a 4,000-foot (1,219 m) section of the pipeline had been removed 105 feet (32 m), bent back like a string on a bow. Oil leaked out through a thin crack.
The amount is not clear. Amplify has publicly stated that no more than 126,000 gallons (477,000 litres) leaked, but told federal investigators that it may have been only 29,400 gallons (111,300 litres).
If a ship’s anchor becomes entangled with an underwater obstacle such as a communications cable or petroleum pipeline, the operator is required by federal law to notify the Coast Guard. According to the Coast Guard, the ships’ locations and movements are regularly monitored by both the AIS system and radar. Ships at sea also use AIS to avoid collisions with each other at night or during low visibility situations.
According to Marine Traffic data, the Rotterdam Express departed San Francisco Bay on Thursday morning. It was scheduled to make port calls in Seattle and Vancouver later this week, according to a ship schedule posted to the Hapag-Lloyd website. Instead, the ship turned south, bound for Manzanillo, Mexico.
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