California oil spill investigators focus on German cargo ship

by mcardinal

Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News



The United States Coast Guard has taken an interest in the movements of a merchant vessel that made a series of strange moves near the site where an oil pipeline ruptured and sent thousands of gallons of crude oil into Southern California coastal waters. 

According to an investigation by the Associated Press’ Michael Biesecker, Stefanie Dazio, and Michael Balsamo, the Rotterdam Express, a large German ship, made three unusual movements that placed it over the pipeline, which runs off the coast near Huntington Beach. 

The AP reports that the ship had been assigned to anchor near Huntingdon Beach at a location near the rupture. 

The assigned anchor point would have kept the ship a safe distance from the pipeline; and, on Sept. 22, the Rotterdam Express dropped anchor 2,000 feet from the pipeline. 

The following day, while anchored, the ship moved several thousand feet to the southeast, a journey that would have taken it over the pipeline. The ship then returned to its original anchor point, which would have required a second trip across the pipeline. 

The AP journalists found other movements by the Rotterdam Express, and each time the ship returned to its initial anchor location. 

It is not yet clear if investigators believe the ship is responsible for rupturing the pipeline.

Whatever the cause, according to a separate AP report, experts believe that the rupture occurred slowly, following the emergence of a thin crack in the pipeline. 

As of this writing, the only parties facing official sanction or financial consequences are the companies who run the pipeline. 

Earlier this week, the U.S. Department of Transportation sent a corrective action order to Amplify Energy, one of the companies who control the pipeline. 

“I find that continued operation of the pipeline without corrective measures is or would be hazardous to life, property, or the environment,” Alan K. Mayberry, Associate Administrator for Pipeline Safety, wrote, “and that failure to issue this Order expeditiously would result in the likelihood of serious harm.”

The corrective action order required Amplify to shutdown the pipeline and undertake various safety and record keeping steps. 

ABC News reported Tuesday that a class-action lawsuit was filed against Amplify Energy and the Beta Operating Company as well as other affiliated companies. 

The plaintiffs in this case, who include a Huntington Beach deejay, claim the companies’ negligence cost them financially, exposed them to toxins, and wrought extensive environmental damage.