West Coast
Oil tankers docket coastline of Long Beach CA, as the oil industry’s future remains in question, Wednesday, April 23,2020 Oil prices tanked below zero on Monday as demand for energy was collapsing amid the coronavirus pandemic, and traders don’t want to get stuck owning crude with nowhere to store it. (Photo by Gene Blevins/Contributing photographer)

CA - Coast Guard monitoring oil tankers off coast from San Pedro to O.C.

Residents reported that the tankers were visible from San Pedro to Long Beach and on up the coast to Orange County.

In a sign of the times, dozens of ships, including a large number of oil tanker vessels, sat in what was becoming a growing holding pattern Friday, April 24, outside the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach.

Friday’s group of 48 vessels included five cruise ships, anchored with no passengers as that industry remains largely shut down amid the coronavirus pandemic; 19 oil tankers, two car carriers, a tug and a barge.

“There are triple the number of ships (normally),” said Capt. Kip Louttit, executive director of the Marine Exchange of Southern California.

Many of the ships will remain in a holding pattern, he said, with the U.S. Coast Guard performing routine monitoring to make sure all were well spaced and secured.

Plummeting oil prices, along with what is now a dip in demand during the coronavirus stay-at-home lockdown, is a likely explanation for the large numbers of oil tankers.

Louttit said visually it wasn’t unlike the backup seen a few years ago during a port labor dispute.

“We’ve done this before, it’s not routine, but we’re getting good at it,” he said.

Some of the ships have come from “halfway around the world,” he said, including one from Iraq and another from Ecuador.

How long the tankers remain will depend on when the refineries they service are ready to accept the shipments.

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