A German cargo ship has been investigated by the United States Coast Guard after it was suspected to have caused a rupture of a natural gas pipeline in the Gulf of Mexico. The ship, which was carrying heavy equipment and construction materials, had reportedly been near the pipeline when it ruptured on April 27th.
The rotterdam express is a cargo ship that was near a ruptured pipeline when it ran aground in Texas. The Coast Guard is investigating the incident.
(AP/CBSLA) HUNTINGTON BEACH — According to data gathered by a maritime navigation service, a large cargo ship made a series of odd maneuvers while moored in the closest location to an oil pipeline that burst off the coast of Orange County, sending tens of thousands of gallons of crude oil washing up on beaches.
The Rotterdam Express, a German cargo ship, was in the vicinity of the oil pipeline that burst off the coast of Huntington Beach, Calif. on Oct. 2, 2021, according to an undated picture. (Photo courtesy of Tony Alter)
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The pipeline breach, which occurred off the coast of Huntington Beach on Saturday morning, may have poured up to 144,000 gallons of oil into the ocean. The leak happened approximately 4 1/2 miles off-shore at the Elly rig in federal waters. Amplify Energy, headquartered in Houston, owns the rig and pipeline.
Federal officials verified Tuesday that a portion of Amplify Energy’s oil pipeline had been broken and had moved more than 100 feet over the ocean bottom, implying that the leak was triggered by a ship’s anchor.
The Coast Guard is looking into whether the Rotterdam Express, a German-flagged ship, grabbed and twisted the pipeline with its anchor. Off the coast of Orange County, Amplify Energy operates three offshore oil installations.
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Amplify Energy’s offshore drilling rigs are connected to a pump station in Long Beach via a roughly 18-mile connection.
MarineTraffic, a navigation service that monitors radio signals from transponders that broadcast the positions of ships and big boats every few minutes, provided the Associated Press with more than two weeks of data.
The Rotterdam Express, which is almost 1,000 feet long, was allocated to anchorage SF-3, which is the closest to where the pipeline burst, according to the data. Over the course of two days, the ship made three odd maneuvers that seemed to place it over the pipeline.
Hapag-Lloyd, the shipping company that runs the Rotterdam Express, denied any involvement in the leak in a statement to the Associated Press.
The Rotterdam Express has been a focus of the spill inquiry, according to a US official who spoke to the Associated Press on Wednesday. The ship is just one of the leads being followed in the inquiry, which is still in its early stages, according to the official.
The ship departed Long Beach on Monday for the Port of Oakland, where it was parked at a pier Wednesday night, according to MarineTraffic data.
HUNTINGTON BEACH OIL SPILL TIMELINE
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The detectives are attempting to gather tracking and navigational data from the vessel in order to determine its precise movements, according to the official. They’re also looking for preliminary interviews with at least a few members of the crew.
The official was unable to speak publicly about the inquiry and talked to the Associated Press on the condition of anonymity.
The Rotterdam Express landed outside the Port of Long Beach early on Sept. 22 and set anchor approximately 2,000 feet from the pipeline, according to MarineTraffic data.
The ship’s locating beacon data showed that while anchored, it abruptly moved hundreds of feet to the southeast, a route that would have carried it over the pipeline laying on the seabed approximately 100 feet below. After approximately 10 minutes, the ship seems to have fired up its engines and returned to its mooring.
According to its online position data, the ship moved again around midnight and a third time just before 8 a.m. on Sept. 23, each time returning to its designated mooring. The Rotterdam Express stayed in SF-3 until Sunday, when it entered the harbor to discharge cargo.
On Friday evening, the first report of oil in the water near the pipeline was made. A low pressure warning went off on the Elly around 2:30 a.m. Saturday, according to a document acquired by CBS2 from the US Department of Transportation. Workers in the Beta Offshore control room, an Amplify subsidiary, did not shut off the pipeline until 6:01 a.m. Saturday, approximately 3 12 hours later.
Divers found a 4,000-foot portion of the pipeline was displaced 105 feet, twisted back like the string on a bow, according to Amplify CEO Martyn Willsher. A sliver of fracture allowed oil to escape.
The exact quantity is unknown. Amplify has publicly said that no more than 126,000 gallons had spilled, but has informed federal investigators that it may be as little as 29,400 gallons.
In an email sent Wednesday, Nils Haupt, a spokesperson for Hapag-Hamburg Lloyd’s headquarters, disputed that the ship ever pulled off anchor from SF-3 during that time. He claims that MarineTraffic’s transponder data is incorrect.
“We have evidence that the vessel did not move because of the logbook, which is updated hourly,” Haupt added. “In this instance, MarineTraffic is inaccurate, and the position is incorrect.”
According to Nikolas Xiros, a marine engineering professor at the University of New Orleans, it’s extremely improbable that a ship’s transponder data, which is sent through a worldwide network called the Automatic Identification System, would be wrong by several thousand feet.
“AIS transporters are very precise, and the whole system is extremely accurate,” Xiros said after examining the Rotterdam Express position track. “I believe the ship has moved, at least that’s what I believe.” And with the anchor dangling, which was a major issue.”
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(CBS Broadcasting Inc., Copyright 2021, All Rights Reserved.) This article was written with the help of the Associated Press.)