Second vessel identified in investigation of California oil spill

Federal authorities boarded container ship Beijing (IMO 9308508) in Long Beach, Southern California, on November 18th, identifying it as a second ship under investigation in the Orange County oil spill.

Marine casualty Investigators from the US Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) boarded the 15-year old containership, which was currently in the Long Beach, California anchorage. The 107,500 dwt vessel, with a capacity of 9,383 teu, operates between China and Southern California.

Authorities from the US Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board believed a ship’s anchor hit an oil pipeline off Huntington Beach and eventually led to the spill on October 2nd 2021.

Braden Rostad, chief of investigations for Los Angeles-Long Beach, said that it had been established that the Beijing was involved in an anchor-dragging incident on January 25th this year during heavy weather at the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The USCG has designated the ship’s owners, Capetanissa of Liberia, and operator, V-Ships Greece Ltd, as parties of interest in the investigation.

Rostad had previously identified the MSC Danit (IMO 9404649) as a vessel that was being investigated for anchor dragging.

USCG investigators said that multiple pipeline scenarios and additional vessels of interest continue to be investigated.

The pipeline off Huntington Beach was the source of the Orange County oil spill on October 2nd, when an oil sheen was first spotted. The pipeline was known to still be intact in October 2020 when the company that operates it last did an inspection. Marine growth visible around the displaced section of the pipeline indicated that the anchor dragging incident probably occurred sometime before the pipeline started leaking oil.

The investigators said that an ROV inspection of the pipeline after the spill revealed that a 4,000ft section of pipe had been displaced by approximately 100ft, resulting in a break in the line’s concrete outer casing. They said the most likely cause was that the line had been dragged on a ship’s anchor. They began focusing on an unusually strong storm in the area on January 24th and 25th, 2021. Reviewing data from the San Pedro Bay’s Marine Exchange VTS, they identified vessels that had been in the area that they believed warranted further investigation.

The USCG plans to bring in experts to determine how long ago the pipe was damaged and when it began leaking. Multiple state and federal investigative agencies are already examining whether any criminal violations occurred with the pipeline leak. The leak saw an estimated 25,000-130,000 gallons of crude oil leech into the ocean off Orange County.

The FBI is now assisting with the criminal investigation, which among other things is examining whether there was a negligent discharge of oil into navigable waters.

The USCG notice states that “both of the container ships we ID’d back on October 19th as likely dragging anchor across the damaged Huntington Beach pipeline during the January 25th storm – MSC Danit and Beijing – are now under investigation by the Coast Guard”.

2006-built, Malta-flagged, 109,149 gt Beijing is owned by Capetanissa Maritime Corp care of manager Costamare Shipping Co SA of Athens, Greece. ISM manager is V Ships Greece Ltd of Piraeus, Greece.

entered with Swedish Club (Piraeus Team) on behalf of Capetanissa Maritime Corporation.

2009-built, Panama-flagged, 153,092 gt MSC Danit is owned by Dordellas Finance Corp care of MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co of Geneva, Switzerland. ISM manager is Mediterranean Shipping Co SRL. It is entered with UK Club on behalf of Conglomerate Maritime Ltd.