Coast Guard investigators boarded a massive cargo ship as they probe what caused the rupture of an offshore oil pipeline that sent crude washing up on Southern California beaches.
he visit to the Rotterdam Express container ship came as investigators try to determine whether an anchor snagged, dragged and bent the pipeline owned by Amplify Energy, a Houston-based company that operates three offshore oil platforms south of Los Angeles.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that the Rotterdam Express appeared to make a series of unusual movements while anchored in the closest spot to where the break in the pipeline happened, according to data collected by a marine navigation service. AP reviewed more than two weeks of data from MarineTraffic, which tracks radio signals from transponders that broadcast the locations of ships and large boats every few minutes.
Hapag-Lloyd, the shipping company that operates the Rotterdam Express, confirmed Thursday that investigators boarded the ship Wednesday while it was docked at the Port of Oakland in San Francisco Bay. The company has said the ship played no role in the oil spill.
“We are fully cooperating with the authorities at this moment,” said Nils Haupt, a spokesman at Hapag-Lloyd’s headquarters in Hamburg, Germany. He said the ship remained in place while anchored.
“We have proof by the logbook, which is updated hourly, that the vessel did not move,” Haupt said. “MarineTraffic in this case is wrong and the position is indeed incorrect.”
A U.S. official told the AP that the Rotterdam Express has become a focus of the spill investigation. The official cautioned that the ship is only one lead being pursued in the investigation, which is in its early stages.
The investigators are seeking to collect tracking and navigational information from the vessel that could help them identify its exact movements, the official said. They are also seeking preliminary interviews with at least some crew members.
The official could not discuss the investigation publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.
Petty Officer Steve Strohmaier, a Coast Guard spokesperson, declined to comment on the Rotterdam Express Wednesday but said the agency is analyzing electric charting systems from its vessel traffic service to see what ships were anchored or moving over the spill area.