Oct 7, 2021 - Energy & Environment

Coast Guard investigating cargo ship's connection to California oil spill

Cargo ships filled with containers wait offshore for entry to the Port of Los Angeles or Port of Long Beach on October 6, 2021 off the coast of San Pedro, California
Cargo ships off the coast of San Pedro, Calif., wait for entry to the Port of Los Angeles or Port of Long Beach, Oct. 6. Photo: Frederic J. Brown/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Coast Guard is investigating whether the Rotterdam Express, a massive German-flagged cargo ship, could have played a role in causing the 126,000-gallon oil spill in Southern California waters, AP reports.

Driving the news: U.S. Coast Guard investigators boarded the cargo ship on Wednesday as part of the investigation into the cause of the oil spill, which is among the largest in recent California history.

  • The ship, now docked in the Port of Oakland, made three unusual movements over two days while anchored near where the break in the pipeline occurred, AP reports.
  • The investigators are seeking to collect tracking information from the Rotterdam Express that could shed light on the ship's exact movements, an official told AP.
  • Officials said Wednesday that the Amplify Energy pipeline was split open and dragged along the ocean floor, potentially by a ship's anchor.

The big picture: California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Tuesday declared a state of emergency due to the oil spill, which is believed to have dumped 126,000 gallons of oil into the ocean.

  • Officials caution that the Rotterdam Express is just one potential area of interest for the investigation into the oil spill.

What they're saying: "There is a series of peculiar things and all that need to be explained," Nikolas Xiros, a professor of marine engineering at the University of New Orleans, told AP.

  • "It may very well be some kind of an accident, but not necessarily a human error. We will have to see. But … I think the most probable explanation is the ship with anchor down moved both back and forth and possibly caused damage to the pipeline."

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