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US energy company suing COSCO and MSC over Californian oil spill

Liner giants COSCO and MSC are being sued by US pipeline operator Amplify Energy Corp. in relation to a massive oil spill resulting from a broken pipeline off Long Beach port in California.

In the incident on 1 October 2021, 25,000 gallons of crude oil were discharged from a crack in the 16-inch San Pedro Bay Pipeline.

On 15 December 2021, a federal grand injury indicted Amplify and two of its subsidiaries for illegally and negligently discharging oil.

Eight alarms were sounded over a 13-hour period, but Amplify did not respond, investigations showed. Instead, Amplify and its subsidiaries reportedly shut and restarted the pipeline five times after the first five alarms, sending oil flowing through the cracked pipeline for more than three hours.

The oil leak caused birds to be coated with petroleum and killed fish in the sea.

Amplify's response was that it had investigated the pipeline but its crew did not know that the leak detection system was malfunctioning.

Yesterday (28 February), Amplify filed its suit against MSC and COSCO in California District Court, alleging that ships operated by the companies, the 14,000 TEU MSC Danit and the 9,383 TEU COSCO Beijing, had dragged their anchors over the San Pedro Bay Pipeline around 25 January 2021, causing it to be damaged.

Amplify is also suing the Marine Exchange, which is responsible for directing traffic around San Pedro Bay.

Amplify alleged that on 25 January 2021, there was a storm that caused many ships in the area to take shelter, except for MSC Danit and COSCO Beijing.

The company asserted that had it informed immediately about the anchors hitting its pipeline, it would have “immediately assessed the situation and made any necessary repairs.”

“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,” said the statement of claim.

MSC and COSCO are expected to file their defence in due course.

Martina Li
Asia Correspondent

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