Coast Guard names "parties in interest" in California oil spill

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The Coast Guard on Saturday named both the owner and operator of a vessel as "parties in interest" believed to be connected to a massive oil spill along the southern California coastline earlier this month. Coast Guard Lieutenant (junior grade) SondraKay Kneen said Sunday that investigators believe a ship's anchor dragged for an unknown distance before striking an undersea pipeline in January.

On Saturday, the Coast Guard designated the MSC Mediterranean Shipping Company, S.A. (MSC), the operator of the vessel, and Dordellas Finance Corporation, the owner of the vessel, as "parties in interest" to the marine casualty investigation. This designation means they have the opportunity to be represented by counsel to examine and cross-examine witnesses and to call relevant witnesses.

The Coast Guard said in a statement that members of the Coast Guard and National Transportation Safety Board marine casualty investigators boarded the container ship MSC DANIT in the Port of Long Beach. Prior to Saturday's visit, Lieutenant Commander Braden Rostad, Chief of Investigations, Sector Los Angeles-Long Beach determined that the Mediterranean Shipping Company DANIT had dragged an anchor in proximity to a 16-inch steel pipeline during a heavy weather event that impacted the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

The pipeline has been determined to be the source of the October 2, 2021 oil spill. The Coast Guard said last week that a ship's anchor likely hooked and damaged the underwater pipeline, which now has a linear 13-inch fracture.

Workers clean up oil in Newport Beach, California, on October 3, 2021. / Credit: DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty
Workers clean up oil in Newport Beach, California, on October 3, 2021. / Credit: DAVID MCNEW/AFP via Getty

The last time the pipeline had been inspected was October 2020. Since then, it has been dragged more than 100 miles.

About 26,000 gallons of crude oil is believed to have leaked into the Pacific Ocean near Huntington Beach. Beaches were closed in the area until last week, and more than four dozen animals, mostly birds and fish, have been found dead since the spill, though not all were visibly oiled, according to the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.

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