Data shows ship passed through ruptured pipeline

LOS ANGELES – A huge freighter that was supposed to be at anchor was rocked by high winds in a January storm and repeatedly crossed an undersea pipeline that then ruptured off the southern California coast , according to vessel monitoring data.

Federal investigators are examining whether on January 25 the anchor of the Panama-registered container ship MSC DANIT grabbed the pipe and pulled it to the seabed, Coast Guard Lt. jg SondraKay Kneen said. Tracking data analyzed by environmental group Skytruth showed that on that date, MSC DANIT had drifted several times over the pipeline which is about 30 meters below the surface.

The storm came as an overflow of ships was backed up outside the Los Angles-Long Beach port complex, which experienced huge delays as shipping volumes increased amid the pandemic. There were winds of up to 63 mph (101 km / h) and seas of 17 feet (5.2 meters), prompting 24 ships to go into deeper water to ride it, according to a report from the Marine Exchange of Southern California, which oversees the vessel’s port traffic.

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The tracking data “seems very consistent with a struggling and overturned ship over there,” Skytruth chairman John Amos said on Monday. He said other ships could have pulled anchor on the pipeline as well, and Kneen acknowledged that the Coast Guard “is still reviewing multiple ships and scenarios.”

Skytruth’s data is based on automatic broadcasts from DANIT indicating its location and condition. It stayed around its anchor point from Jan. 18 to early Jan. 25, then began to drift erratically while still broadcasting that it was at anchor, the data showed.

The ship passed through the pipeline at 5:47 a.m., then three more times over the next three hours, before her status changed to “underway” and moved further offshore and behind an island, presumably. to shelter from the storm, Amos said. .

The data do not explain the long delay between moving the anchor and the sudden appearance of oil in the water off Huntington Beach beginning of October.

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“The bigger question is how the liability is going to be determined? Said Amos. “If it turns out that a ship in distress hooked up this pipeline and moved it, does that explain an oil spill that occurred several months later? “

The Coast Guard is trying to determine if the anchor drag from the DANIT caused the leak, if the line was hit by something else at a later date, or if it failed due to a pre-existing problem problem, Kneen said, adding that the investigation could take a year.

The crash a few miles offshore sent about 25,000 gallons (94,635 liters) of crude into the water and then onto the sands of Huntington Beach and several other communities. While not as bad as initially feared, it has reignited the debate over offshore drilling in federal Pacific waters, where hundreds of miles of pipelines were installed decades ago.

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A crack was found in the exposed steel pipeline on the seabed owned by Houston-based Amplify Energy. A video from the site showed that the line’s concrete coating – intended to weigh it down to the seabed – had broken, suggesting it had been hit by a large object such as an anchor.

The U.S. House Natural Resources Committee held a meeting Monday in Orange County to hear about the impact of the spill on wildlife and businesses. Dr Michael Ziccardi, director of the Oiled Wildlife Care Network, said nearly 100 oiled birds were found, two-thirds of which died. Five mammals and more than a dozen fish were also recovered.

Scott Breneman, a fourth-generation commercial fisherman who owns a retail and wholesale business and owns a seafood restaurant, said his business collapsed after the spill. He said it reminded him of what his father faced after oil tanker American Trader pierced her hull with its anchor off the coast in 1990, spilling over 400,000 gallons (1.5 million liters) of oil in the same area.

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“I watched my dad wrestle for months,” Breneman said. “I have seen the exact same thing happen here.

Representative Katie Porter, D-Calif., Said the spill is expected to support President Joe Biden’s proposed budget that would ban new offshore oil and gas concessions in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and the eastern Gulf of Mexico. She also called for an end to “obsolete” subsidies for oil and gas companies.

“These subsidies and so many more are the reasons that oil wells like the ones that caused this leak are still active,” Porter said. “Getting rid of the grants is the first step in getting rid of the problem. “

Investigating the causes of the spill could lead to criminal charges or civil penalties.

A team of federal investigators boarded the DANIT on Saturday, hours after the 1,200-foot (366-meter) vessel arrived at the port of Long Beach from China. Kneen declined to say if damage had been found on a DANIT anchor.

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The Coast Guard identified the owner and operator of the vessel as interested parties in its investigation.

DANIT’s operator, MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, is headquartered in Switzerland and has a fleet of 600 vessels and more than 100,000 workers, according to the company. MSC spokesman Giles Broom said on Monday that the company had not commented on the investigation.

The owner of the vessel, identified by the Coast Guard as the Dordellas Finance Corporation, could not be reached for comment.

At least two other ships have already been approached by investigators, which examine logs kept by captains, officers and engineers of ships and voyage data recorders – equivalent to the so-called black box on airplanes.


Brown reported from Billings, Montana.

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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