WASHINGTON — A draft report on the U.S. Coast Guard's investigation of the 394,000-gallon oil spill off the Orange County coast last February is a "very well-done . . . technical" document that contains "no surprises," a top Coast Guard official said Friday.
The 56-page report on the Feb. 7 spill from the tanker American Trader will not be made public for another two to three weeks, said Capt. Gerard Barton, who heads the Coast Guard's marine investigation division.
In the meantime, the document's findings and recommendations are being circulated for comment within Coast Guard headquarters, Barton said.
"It is a very well-done report. It's technical. There are no surprises. It's not going to make headlines," said Barton, who is reviewing the work done by investigators at the Coast Guard's marine safety office in Long Beach.
The report arrived at Coast Guard headquarters in Washington on Thursday. It took half a dozen investigators nearly two months to complete and was based on interviews with, among others, officials of American Trading Transportation Co., owners of the tanker, and British Petroleum Oil Shipping Co. USA, which leased the 811-foot vessel to carry its oil.
In addition to determining the specific cause of the accident, the Coast Guard report is expected to focus on the question of whether the crew of the American Trader was negligent.
Barton would not comment directly on the report's contents.
However, the Coast Guard on Thursday announced unprecedented restrictions on tanker traffic at the mooring about 1.3 miles southwest of Huntington Beach where the American Trader ran aground on its own anchor, gashing a hole in its hull.
The new restrictions reflect the agency's concern about the accuracy of depth readings used by the tanker as it approached the mooring and highlight what many believe to have been the cause of the spill.
The new Coast Guard rules require at least six feet of clearance between the bottom of a tanker and any known obstruction on the sea floor, such as an anchor; monthly depth readings at the mooring, and depth soundings before each tanker arrival. The restrictions apply only to the Huntington Beach mooring.
Officers on board the American Trader have said they believed there was at least 13 feet of clearance between the bottom of the vessel and their anchor. But depth soundings conducted after the accident found the water at its shallowest to measure 47 feet, while the disabled tanker drew 43 feet of water.