Second Vessel Identified in Investigation of California Oil Spill

second vessel targeted in California oil spill investigation
US Coast Guard and NTSB investigators boarded the Beijing which is in the Long Beach anchorage (file photo)

Published Nov 19, 2021 8:43 PM by The Maritime Executive

The U.S. Coast Guard issued a “party in interest” designation to the owner and operator a second containership that it is investigating related to the oil spill off Southern California last month. The notice begins a legal process providing the owner and operate a structure to respond to potential charges.

On November 18, Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) marine casualty investigators boarded a 15-year old containership named Beijing that is among the vessels currently in the Long Beach, California anchorage. The 107,500 dwt vessel, with a capacity of 9,383 TEU, reportedly is operating between China and Southern California.

Before the visit to the vessel, Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Braden Rostad, Chief of Investigations, Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach determined that the Beijing was involved in a January 25, 2021, anchor-dragging incident during a heavy weather event that impacted the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach. The anchor-dragging incident occurred in close proximity to a subsea pipeline, which was subsequently discovered to be the source of the Orange County oil spill on October 2, 2021.

As a result, the Coast Guard designated the V.Ships Greece Ltd., the operator of the vessel, and Capetanissa Maritime Corporation of Liberia, the owner of the vessel, as parties in interest to the marine casualty investigation. The Coast Guard reported that the party in interest designation provides the owner and operator of the Beijing the opportunity to be represented by counsel, to examine and cross-examine witnesses, and to call witnesses who are relevant to the investigation.



The authorities have been investigating the possibility that a ship dragging its anchor was the cause of the San Pedro Bay Pipeline spill that occurred in October 2021 releasing an estimated 25,000-130,000 gallons of crude oil into the ocean off Orange County. Several vessels were initially investigated but cleared of involvement. 

A month ago, the U.S. Coast Guard also designated the MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, the operator of the MSC Danit, and Dordellas Finance Corporation, the owner of the MSC Danit, as the first party in interest related to the spill. 

The investigators said that an ROV inspection of the pipeline after the spill revealed that a 4,000-foot section of pipe had been displaced by approximately 100 feet 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 and they began focusing on an unusually strong storm that overtook the area on January 24 and 25, 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 Coast Guard marine casualty investigation into the Orange County oil pipeline major marine casualty, however, remains ongoing. Coast Guard investigators said that multiple pipeline scenarios and additional vessels of interest continue to be investigated.