Coast Guard investigators are investigating whether Amplify Energy's pipeline was bent by a ship anchor. Amplify Energy is a Houston-based company which operates three offshore oil platforms south from Los Angeles. According to data from a marine navigation system, Wednesday's report by The Associated Press stated that the Rotterdam Express made a series unusual movements while anchored at the spot where the pipe burst.
AP reviewed over two weeks of data from MarineTraffic a navigation system that tracks radio signals from transponders broadcasting the location of large boats every few seconds.
Fotini Teroni, a MarineTraffic spokesperson, stated in an email that the Rotterdam Express' questionable movements were likely due to errors in the ship’s GPS system. This is rather than showing the ship’s actual position. According to the company, the jumps in position were being removed to show that the ship was within its anchorage.
Rotterdam Express, a German flagged ship that measures nearly 1,000 feet (305 metres) in length, was assigned anchorage SF-3. This is the closest location to the site where the pipeline burst off Huntington Beach. Hapag-Lloyd is the shipping company that owns the Rotterdam Express. They confirmed that investigators boarded Wednesday's ship while it was docked at Port of Oakland. According to the company, it was not involved in the oil-spill.
"We are fully cooperating the authorities at this time," stated Nils Haupt, a spokesperson at Hapag-Lloyd's headquarters located in Hamburg, Germany.
On Wednesday, a U.S. official informed the AP that the Rotterdam Express was a focal point of the spillage investigation. Official cautioned that the Rotterdam Express is just one lead in the investigation. This is still in its early stages.
According to the official, investigators want to gather navigational and tracking information from the vessel in order to identify its movements. They also want preliminary interviews with at most one member of the crew.
The official was unable to discuss the investigation publicly, so he spoke to the AP under anonymity.
Spokesperson for the Coast Guard, Petty Officer Steve Strohmaier said that the agency was analyzing the vessel traffic service's electric charting systems to determine if any ships are anchored in the spillage area.
According to MarineTraffic data, the Rotterdam Express was seen arriving at the Port of Long Beach on Sept. 22, and dropping anchor approximately 2,000 feet (610 m) from the pipeline. The data showed that the ship's position changed dramatically three times in the days following, making it appear that the ship drifted above the pipeline. The Automatic Identification System is a global network that provides location data for ships. It can be accessed within just a few feet.
On Friday, Oct. 1, the first reports of oil in the waters near the pipeline were made. Amplify reported that the pipeline was shut down on Saturday morning, but it has not yet stated how long it believed oil had flowed from it.
Martyn Willsher, Amplify's CEO, said Tuesday that divers had determined that a section of the pipeline measuring 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) was leaking. The pipe was then dislodged at 105 feet (32 metres), bent back like a string. Oil was able to escape through a narrow crack.
It is not clear what the amount was. Amplify claimed publicly that not more than 126,000gallons (477,000 Liters) had leaked, but federal investigators were told it could be as low as 29,400gallons (111.300 Liters).
AP reached Hapag-Lloyd for the first time on Tuesday night, in search of explanations regarding the ship's movements between Sept. 22-23.
Nils claimed that the ship never left spot SF-3 at anchor during this period. Nils claimed that MarineTraffic's transponder data is incorrect.
Haupt stated, "We have evidence by the logbook which is updated hourly that the vessel didn't move." "MarineTraffic is incorrect in this case and the position is indeed wrong."
Wednesday morning, AP sent an email to the Unified Command Joint Information Center to request comment from federal and state agencies that are responding to the oil disaster. Lauren Jorgensen, Senior Chief Petty Officer, stated that the command is unable to discuss ongoing investigations.
Federal law requires that the Coast Guard is notified if a ship's anchor becomes entangled in an underwater obstacle, such as a communication cable or petroleum pipeline. According to the Coast Guard, both radar and the AIS system monitor the ship's movements and locations regularly.
According to MarineTraffic data the ship left Long Beach Monday for Oakland. It was still moored at the dock Thursday morning, despite its departure scheduled for Wednesday night.