Orange County Oil Spill: Coast Guard investigates ship

U.S. Coast Guard investigators boarded a cargo ship in Long Beach on Saturday that could be linked to the rupture of a pipeline that spilled an estimated 25,000 gallons of oil off the Orange County coast, the agency said.

Braden Rostad, investigator in charge of Los Angeles-Long Beach, discovered that the MSC DANIT, a large container ship, was involved in an anchor towing incident in heavy weather in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach on the coast on January 25 was Guard said in a statement.

The anchor drag occurred near a pipeline leading from an oil rig to Long Beach Harbor. That pipeline was later discovered as the source of the Orange County’s oil spill on October 2, the statement said. An oil sheen was first discovered by a ship 4½ miles off Huntington Beach that evening and then discovered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The pipeline was intact in October 2020 when the company that last operated it conducted an inspection, and the marine growth visible around the relocated section of the pipeline suggests that the anchor resistance was likely not new, the said U.S. Coast Guard Captain Jason Neubauer.

Investigators suspect that an initial anchor strike many months prior to leakage displaced part of the pipeline, peeling off the concrete coating and making it more susceptible to other potential anchor strikes or environmental stressors.

In an attempt to determine when that first strike occurred, the investigation team focuses on a storm that brought strong winds to the area for two days in late January.

Ship movement data, verified by The Times, shows that MSC DANIT moved across the pipeline in strong winds on January 25, before finally moving into the channel near Catalina Island.

The Coast Guard has named Mediterranean Shipping Company, SA, the operator of the ship, and Dordellas Finance Corporation, its owner, as interested parties in the ongoing investigation.

These designations offer the owner and operator of the MSC DANIT the opportunity to be represented by a lawyer, to hear and cross-examine witnesses and to summon witnesses relevant to the investigation.

The MSC DANIT is just one of several ships examined, said Lt. SondraKay Kneen, a spokeswoman for the Coast Guard investigation team. Neubauer said, however, that no other shipowners or operators had been given the designation “party in the interest”.

Coast Guard investigators plan to call in experts to determine how long the pipe has been damaged and when it has been leaking.

The Coast Guard also sent its own team of divers to gather evidence.

Several state and state investigative agencies are already investigating whether the pipeline leak that hit the waters off Huntington Beach two weeks ago was a criminal offense.

The FBI is now supporting the criminal investigation into, among other things, whether oil was negligently dumped into navigable waters.

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