$44 Million Payout Agreement for San Francisco Bay Oil Spill

By The Maritime Executive 09-21-2011 10:40:29

Four years later after the disastrous San Francisco Bay Oil Spill in ’07, companies are finally being held responsible by local, state and federal officials for the damage inflicted onto the environment at the price of US$44 million.

The Cosco Busan oil spill occurred on November 7th, 2007 and spilled 53,000 gallons of oil into the ocean after a containership owned by Regal Stone Ltd. and operated by Fleet Management struck the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in foggy conditions, spurring one of the worst ecological disasters of the region.  A 211-foot long tear was produced on the side of the ship, leaving several fuel tanks punctured and spilling into the bay.  The monstrous volume of oil managed to oil 69 miles of shoreline, and killed at least 2,500 sea birds, although The Seattle Times stated that estimates from various state and wildlife agencies calculated the deal toll of birds around 6,800.  The spill also did considerable damage to herring spawn populations of the bay, and closed the waters for all recreational and fishing activities.  Attorney General of California, Kamala Harris, was quoted by the LA Times saying that the Cosco Busan oil spill left a lasting scar across the California waters, oceanic habitats and wildlife as she publicly announced the $44 million settlement.

PHOTO CAPTION: damage to the MV Hanjin Venezia, former COSCO Busan, after striking the San Francisco Bay Bridge

The $44 million was decreed by federal officials to restore habitats, improve coastal access, restore facilities and reimburse the agencies that responded to the spill with cleanup efforts, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.  It was the resolution from a national lawsuit against Regal Stone Ltd. and Fleet Management Ltd.  It is the largest settlement of its kind in the country since the 1990 legislation, the Oil Pollution Act.  Officials stated that a Draft Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan outlining allocation of the $44 million will soon be available for public comment.

U.S. Secretary of Interior, Ken Salazar, along with Kamala Harris stressed that this is a message to all polluters—there is a price to pay for damage to our natural resources, and they will see to it that all responsible for such accidents will be held accountable.

The pilot who is blamed for the incident, John Cota, 62, has already served 10 months in jail in result of the damages after the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) found in their investigation that Cota was impaired by various prescription medications, and failed to secure proper communication with the ship’s caption, Mao Cai Sun.  The two shipping companies at blame have already paid $3.6 million in damages to 120 Bay Area commercial fishermen.    In addition, Fleet Management Ltd. was fined $10 million last year for charges of water pollution, and filing false documents in a subsequent cover-up attempt.

Darrell Wilson, a spokesman for Regal Stone Ltd. commented to the LA Times that they deeply regret the accident and sincerely appreciate all who have contributed to the response clean-up.