A ship moored near an oil pipeline behaves abnormally

Huntington Beach, CA (AP) —Data collected by Marine Navigation Services shows that a huge cargo ship made a series of anomalous movements while moored closest to the Southern California oil pipeline. ..

The Coast Guard investigates whether a ship’s anchor could have caught and bent a pipeline owned by Amplify Energy, a Houston-based company that operates three offshore oil platforms south of Los Angeles. doing.

Associated Press reviewed data for over two weeks from MarineTraffic, A navigation service that tracks radio signals from transponders that broadcast the location of ships and large boats every few minutes.

The data show that the Rotterdam Express, a German-flagged vessel about 1,000 feet (305 meters) long, was assigned to the SF-3 berth closest to where the pipeline ruptured off Huntington Beach. .. The ship made three unusual movements in two days and appeared to have crossed the pipeline.

In a statement to AP, Hapag-Lloyd, the shipping company that operates Rotterdam Express, denied any role in the spill.

US officials told AP on Wednesday that Rotterdam Express was the focus of the spill investigation. Officials warned that the vessel was the only lead pursued in the investigation and was in its infancy.

Investigators are trying to collect tracking and voyage information from the vessel to help identify the exact movement of the vessel, officials said. They are also seeking preliminary interviews with at least some crew members.

Officials were unable to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

Coast Guard noncommissioned officer Steve Stromeier declined to comment on Rotterdam Express, but the agency analyzed the electrical charting system for shipping services to determine which ships are moored and the spill area. He said he was investigating whether he was moving.

According to MarineTraffic data, the Rotterdam Express arrived outside the Port of Long Beach early on September 22, anchoring about 2,000 feet (610 meters) from the pipeline.

Around 5 pm the next day, data from the ship’s locator beacon showed that it had suddenly moved thousands of feet southeast while berthed. The truck was supposed to go through a pipeline of about 100 feet (30 meters) on the ocean floor. ) Less than. The ship then seems to have started the engine to return to the harbor about 10 minutes later.

The ship then moved again at midnight just before 8 am on September 23 and before and after the third, according to online location data, and returned to its assigned berth each time. The Rotterdam Express stayed at Spot SF-3 until it moved to the port and unloaded on Sunday.

The first report of underwater oil near the pipeline took place on Friday night. Amplify said the pipeline was closed early Saturday morning, but did not say how long it believed oil had flowed from it.

Martyn Willsher, CEO of Amplify, said Tuesday divers determined that a 4,000-foot (1,219-meter) section of the pipeline had moved 105 feet (32 meters) and bent like a bow string. .. Oil escaped from a small crack.

The amount is unknown. Amplify has publicly stated that it is leaking only 126,000 gallons (476,962 liters), but federal agents say it could be only 29,400 gallons (111,291 liters).

AP first contacted Hapag-Lloyd on Tuesday night for an explanation of the ship’s movements on September 22nd and 23rd.

Nilshaupt, a spokesman for headquarters in Hamburg, Germany, denied in an email Wednesday that the ship had anchored from Spot SF-3 during that period. He said the transponder data displayed by MarineTraffic was incorrect.

“The logbook, which is updated hourly, provides evidence that the ship did not move,” Haupt said. “MarineTraffic in this case is wrong and the position is certainly incorrect.”

Haupt said Hapag-Lloyd would cooperate with any investigation.

On Wednesday morning, AP sent an email containing a screenshot of the Rotterdam Express movement shown in MarineTraffic to the Integrated Command Joint Information Center of the state and federal agencies responding to the oil spill. Senior Chief Petty Officer Lauren Jorgensen said HQ was unable to discuss issues related to ongoing investigations.

Nicholas Siros, a professor of marine engineering at the University of New Orleans, said it is very unlikely that ship transponder data operating through a global network called an automatic identification system will be off by thousands of feet.

“The AIS transporter is very accurate and the whole system is also very accurate,” said Xiros after confirming the location track of Rotterdam Express. “Maybe the ship has moved. That’s what I think. And with the anchor down, that was a big problem.”

Having taught future captains and crew voyages and electronics for over 20 years, the only alternative he can think of is that someone has hacked the AIS system and Rotterdam Express is running. It was that I showed it to. The ship’s transmitter somehow came off the mast, fell into the water and drifted, then was recovered by the crew, but only two more times.

Xiros said he could not provide a rational explanation for why the ship was so far from the assigned station. Records show relatively mild weather and sea during the day in question.

“There is a series of unique things that need to be explained,” Xiros said. “It may be some kind of accident, but it’s not necessarily a human error. We’ll have to look. But … his most likely explanation is that the anchored ship moves back and forth. And I think it could have damaged the pipeline. “

If a ship’s anchor gets caught in an underwater obstacle such as a communication cable or oil pipeline, the operator must notify the Coast Guard by federal law. According to the Coast Guard, the position and movement of the ship is also regularly monitored by both the AIS system and radar.

Xiros said he would take the Rotterdam Express to check digital logs for both location and engine operation when investigating the cause of the oil spill.

According to MarineTraffic data, the vessel left Long Beach on Monday for Oakland Harbor and was moored at the dock on Wednesday night.


Los Angeles Associated Press writer Michael Blood contributed to this report.


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