CA oil spill investigation focus on cargo ship’s involvement on teared pipeline

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A German cargo ship became the center of the investigation on the Southern California oil spill, with an angle that its anchor might have torn the pipeline, as it moved north and anchored at the Port of Oakland after the incident.

The Los Angeles Times and Associated Press, citing federal officials, said that the Hapag-Lloyd-owned cargo ship was a Rotterdam Express. On Tuesday, the vessel moved up from the Port of Long Beach and anchored on Wednesday morning in the San Francisco Bay. The ship was seen to be the closest one to the spill on Friday, satellite imagery revealed.

But the ship’s owner defended that the Rotterdam Express did not travel over the pipeline or maneuvered from its anchorage.

The investigation particularly looks into the possibility that the vessel’s anchor might have caused the pierce on the pipeline, federal officials said. The video of the pipe’s tear was released by officials, showing what divers and robot submarines captured: the displacement of a 4,000-foot section of the 17.7 mile-long pipeline by up to 105 feet. The cut, meanwhile, measures 13 inches.

“That is one of the things we are looking into at this point as a possible cause,” according to Steve Strohmaier, Coast Guard spokesman. “We are looking at what vessels were in that area.”

At least 126, 000 gallons of heavy crude was spilled into the ocean waters of Huntington Beach. The report first came on Friday.

In a statement to The Chronicle, Hapag-Lloyd spokesman Nils Haupt defended that the Rotterdam Express was anchored last Sept. 21 at SF-3 anchorage. Haupt said it followed the direction of the San Pedro marine traffic controllers. It lifted its anchor a couple of days after the spill, or on Oct. 3.

“The anchor was dropped exactly as requested and confirmed by San Pedro Traffic,” he said. “During the period in question the vessel has not moved from anchorage and has not passed over the pipeline. During anchorage no oil in the water has been spotted.”

Haupt said the company was “fully cooperating” with authorities and the ship had already left for Mexico on Thursday morning after it was granted by the Coast Guard to leave Oakland.