The U.S. Coast Guard is now considering the MSC DANIT, a Panamanian container ship, a “party of interest” in their investigation of the Huntington Beach Oil Spill. The October oil spill released an estimated 140,000 gallons of oil into Southern California waters.
On the evening of October 1, officials in Newport Beach, California received reports of a possible oil spill a couple of miles off the Southern California coast. By Saturday morning, the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) was notified of a potential rupture in a pipeline that carries petroleum inland from the offshore oil platform Elly, one of three oil platforms located off the coast of Long Beach. At the time, the oil slick was reportedly about 3 nautical miles long and heading east towards Huntington Beach.
Although the pipeline was quickly shut down, an 13-inch gash in the structure ultimately released between 25,000 and 140,000 gallons of oil into the ocean, killing marine life and forcing widespread beach closures. The oil spill has since been officially designated as a “Major Marine Casualty” by the U.S. Coast Guard, their most extreme rating for a marine incident. Now, over a month after the oil spill began, the U.S. Coast Guard, which is leading the investigation into the cause of the spill, has expanded their search to include a second vessel as a “party of interest”.
Scuba divers who were sent down to look at the ruptured pipeline as part of the Coast Guard’s investigation discovered that in addition to the line’s 13-inch fracture, the pipeline was also bent like an archer’s bow and had been pulled about 100 feet off-course. The unusual condition of the pipeline has led investigators to suspect a large ship anchor may have caused the oil spill.
Initially, on October 5, the U.S. Coast Guard announced they were looking into the Rotterdam Express, a German container ship that anchored near the pipeline around the time of the oil spill. After boarding the vessel and collecting evidence, the Coast Guard released the Rotterdam while they continue their investigation. The Coast Guard continues to review the evidence obtained from the Rotterdam, but has notably not listed the ship as a “party of interest”. The Rotterdam Express has returned to its normal operations.
On October 16, the U.S. Coast Guard announced it had expanded its investigation to include the MSC DANIT, a Panamanian-owned container ship. Unlike the Rotterdam Express, the MSC DANIT is officially designated as a “party of interest” in the Coast Guard’s investigation of the Huntington Beach oil spill. The investigation may be expanded to include additional ships based on information obtained from the continued review of past ship tracking information, a Coast Guard official told Forbes via email.