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With the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach facing unprecedented gridlock, investigators are trying to determine what role the congested shipping lanes played in the massive oil spill that has fouled the Orange County coast since early this month.

Investigators are probing possible issues with the way ships are anchoring or drifting off the coast in long lines caused by skyrocketing consumer demand and disrupted supply chains during the pandemic.

Officials believe a ship anchored off Huntington Beach hit an undersea pipe, possibly months before the oil began spilling in the ocean. It’s unclear how a ship came to lower its anchor on a pipeline when the placement of vessels is supposed to be carefully orchestrated to avoid such mishaps.

But the offshore traffic jams have forced ships to wait well beyond their usual zones, dropping enormous anchors near oil platforms and an undersea infrastructure of oil lines.

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