HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIF. —
A large cargo ship made a sequence of bizarre actions whereas anchored within the closest spot to a Southern California oil pipeline that ruptured and despatched crude washing up on seashores, in line with knowledge collected by a marine navigation service.
The Coast Guard is investigating whether or not a ship anchor might need snagged and bent the pipeline owned by Amplify Power, a Houston-based firm that operates three offshore oil platforms south of Los Angeles.
The Related Press reviewed greater than two weeks of information from MarineTraffic, a navigation service that tracks radio indicators from transponders that broadcast the places of ships and enormous boats each couple of minutes.
That knowledge reveals the Rotterdam Specific, a German-flagged ship almost 1,000 ft (305 metres) lengthy, was assigned to anchorage SF-3, the closest to the place the pipeline ruptured off Huntington Seashore. The ship made three uncommon actions over two days that seem to place it over the pipeline.
In an announcement to AP, Hapag-Lloyd, the delivery firm that operates the Rotterdam Specific, denied any position within the spill.
A U.S. official informed the AP on Wednesday that the Rotterdam Specific has change into a spotlight of the spill investigation. The official cautioned the ship is just one lead being pursued within the investigation, which is within the early levels.
The investigators are looking for to gather monitoring and navigational data from the vessel that might assist them establish its precise actions, the official mentioned. They’re additionally looking for preliminary interviews with at the least some crew members.
The official couldn’t focus on the investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on situation of anonymity.
Petty Officer Steve Strohmaier, a Coast Guard spokesperson, declined to touch upon the Rotterdam Specific however mentioned the company is analyzing electrical charting techniques from its vessel visitors service to see what ships have been anchored or transferring over the spill space.
The MarineTraffic knowledge reveals the Rotterdam Specific arrived outdoors the Port of Lengthy Seashore early on Sept. 22 and dropped anchor about 2,000 ft (610 metres) from the pipeline.
The next day, at about 5 p.m., the information for the ship’s locator beacon indicated that whereas anchored it out of the blue moved 1000’s of ft to the southeast, a monitor that will have taken it over the pipeline mendacity on the seafloor about 100 ft (30 metres) beneath. The ship seems to have then engaged its engines to return to its anchorage about 10 minutes later.
The ship then moved once more round midnight and a 3rd time shortly earlier than 8 a.m. on Sept. 23, every time transferring again to its assigned anchorage, in line with its on-line location knowledge. The Rotterdam Specific remained at spot SF-3 till Sunday, when it moved into the port to unload.
The primary report of oil within the water close to the pipeline have been made Friday night. Amplify mentioned the pipeline was shut down early Saturday morning however has not mentioned how lengthy it believes oil flowed from it.
Amplify’s CEO Martyn Willsher mentioned Tuesday divers decided a 4,000-feet (1,219-metre) part of the pipeline was dislodged 105 ft (32 metres), bent again just like the string on a bow. Oil escaped by a slender crack.
The quantity is unclear. Amplify has mentioned publicly that not more than 126,000 gallons (476,962 litres) leaked however informed federal investigators it might be solely 29,400 gallons (111,291 litres).
AP first contacted Hapag-Lloyd on Tuesday night, looking for a proof for the ship’s actions on Sept. 22 and 23.
Nils Haupt, a spokesman at its headquarters in Hamburg, Germany, denied in an electronic mail Wednesday that the ship ever moved off anchor from spot SF-3 throughout that interval. He mentioned the transponder knowledge displayed by MarineTraffic is misguided.
“Now we have proof by the logbook, which is up to date hourly, that the vessel didn’t transfer,” Haupt mentioned. “MarineTraffic on this case is flawed and the place is certainly incorrect.”
Haupt mentioned Hapag-Lloyd would cooperate with any investigation.
On Wednesday morning, AP despatched an electronic mail that included a screenshot of the Rotterdam Specific actions as indicated on MarineTraffic to the Unified Command Joint Info Middle for state and federal companies responding to the oil spill. Senior Chief Petty Officer Lauren Jorgensen mentioned the command was unable to debate issues involving an ongoing investigation.
Nikolas Xiros, a professor of marine engineering on the College of New Orleans, mentioned it could be extremely unlikely that the transponder knowledge for a ship, which works by a world community known as the Automated Identification System, could be off by a number of thousand ft.
“AIS transporters are very correct and the entire system can also be very correct,” Xiros mentioned after reviewing the placement monitor for Rotterdam Specific. “I believe in all probability the ship moved, that is what I believe. And with the anchor down, which was an enormous downside.”
Xiros, who has spent greater than 20 years educating marine navigation and electronics to future ship captains and crew, mentioned the one different rationalization he might consider was that both somebody had hacked the AIS system to make the Rotterdam Specific seem to maneuver or that the ship’s transmitter one way or the other turned unfastened from its mast, fell within the water and drifted away earlier than being retrieved by the crew, solely to have it come unfastened two extra occasions.
Xiros mentioned he might present no affordable rationalization for why the ship might need moved to date off its assigned station. Information present comparatively calm climate and seas throughout the days in query.
“There’s a sequence of weird issues and all that must be defined,” Xiros mentioned. “It could very properly be some sort of an accident, however not essentially a human error. We should see. However … I believe he most possible rationalization is the ship with anchor down moved each forwards and backwards and probably brought about harm to the pipeline.”
If a ship’s anchor have been to change into entangled with an underwater impediment comparable to a communications cable or petroleum pipeline, the operator is required by federal legislation to inform the Coast Guard. The places and actions of ships are additionally recurrently monitored by each the AIS system and radar, in line with the Coast Guard.
Xiros mentioned if he have been investigating the reason for the oil spill, he would search to evaluation the digital logs for each location and engine operations aboard the Rotterdam Specific.
In accordance with MarineTraffic knowledge, the ship left Lengthy Seashore on Monday for the Port of Oakland, the place it was moored at a dock Wednesday night time.
Related Press author Michael Blood in Los Angeles contributed to this report.