Huntington Beach oil spill case: Amplify Energy sues shipping companies
Amplify Energy, the company that owns an oil rig that spilled crude into the waters off of Huntington Beach, filed a federal lawsuit Monday against two shipping companies accused of dragging anchors over the pipe that sprung a leak.
The company names container ships, the MSC Danit and the COSCO Beijing, in the lawsuit that was filed at the end of the business day in federal court in Santa Ana as part of the ongoing litigation regarding the spill before U.S. District Judge David O. Carter in which Amplify Energy is a defendant.
Amplify Energy is suing the owners of the container ships, Mediterranean Shipping Co. and Dordellas Finance Corp., along with the captains and crews and other associated companies as well as the Marine Exchange, which is responsible for directing traffic around San Pedro Bay.
Amplify Energy is alleging that had it been notified right away about the anchor strikes it would have “immediately assessed the situation and made any necessary repairs,” according to a statement from the company.
The spill “should never have happened and had these parties not been grossly negligent and had any party notified Amplify, this entire event could have been avoided,” Amplify Energy said in its statement about the lawsuit.
Both of the ships had been anchored in San Pedro Bay on Jan. 25, 2021, awaiting to unload cargo, the lawsuit said. A storm was brewing, so many of the other ships in the area “took refuge in deeper waters. The MSC Danit and COSCO Beijing did not,” according to the lawsuit.
“Instead, the MSC Danit and COSCO Beijing remained anchored about 4.8 miles off the California coast, next to the undersea San Pedro Bay Pipeline… which has been in place since 1980,” the lawsuit alleged.
That pipeline conveys oil from offshore production and platforms to Long Beach and “all defendants knew or should have known precisely where the pipeline was” and federal law prohibits ships from using anchors too close to that pipeline.
Wind gusted up to 63 miles per hour in the storm that pushed waves up to 17 feet high, and the ships’ anchors across the sea floor where anchoring was prohibited, the lawsuit alleged. The anchors “dragged a 4,000-foot section of the pipeline across the seafloor,” the lawsuit alleged.
“The anchor-dragging bent and bowed the pipeline, displacing some parts of the pipeline by more than 100 feet and breaking off the concrete casing around the pipeline,” the lawsuit alleged.
“Yet despite dragging anchor while repeatedly crossing over the well-charted location of the pipeline, the MSC defendants and Beijing defendants failed to alert Amplify of the incidents,” the lawsuit alleged.
“Nor did Marine Exchange — which monitors such movements in real time and knew or should have known that the ships had cross over the pipeline multiple times while broadcasting that they were ‘at anchor’ — inform Amplify of the ships’ movements.”
After the oil spill, Coast Guard officials named the ships as possibly the cause of the damage to the pipeline, the lawsuit said.
“Then, after one of the COSCO Beijing’s crew members allegedly attempted to flee the country, the MSC Danit’s owner asked (Carter) for emergency relief to secure his deposition,” the lawsuit alleges. “The Coast Guard’s investigation into the anchor-dragging incidents remains ongoing.”
Amplify is seeking damages for harm to its business and reputation as well as for repairs and replacing the pipeline and for the loss of income from suspending its operation.
Amplify is also seeking injunctive relief against Marine Exchange which would require it to warn of anchor-dragging incidents within 24 hours to the companies affected by such an accident. The company also wants to prevent vessels from anchoring near the pipeline when stormy weather is anticipated.