One-year anniversary of Cosco Busan oil spill

November 6, 2008 6:51:05 PM PST
Friday marks the one-year anniversary of the Cosco Busan oil spill in San Francisco Bay. The accident revealed weaknesses in both prevention and response, and there have been some changes over the course of this year to address those problems.

Human error has been determined as the main cause of the Cosco Busan oil spill a year ago. So there has been a concentrated effort at changing the system to help pilots prevent accidents like this one.

Joan Lundstrom chairs the Harbor Safety Committee which was formed after the devastating Exxon Valdez spill to make sure ports are following best practices.

Lundstrom says since the Cosco Busan spill, changes include expansion of the network of sensors that deliver real-time information on tides, currents, and wind, and more specific weather reports from the National Weather Service will alert pilots of dense fog.

"Instead of giving a blanket prediction for fog in the bay, (it) is now giving predictions for these microclimates, which is a major help," said Lunsdstrom.

She says increasing ferry traffic is creating potential for collisions, so some ferry routes have been changed. The Board of Pilot Commissioners for San Francisco regulates the pilots. It is meeting Thursday and Friday in Oregon with several other West Coast boards, and the agenda includes an update on changes over the last year. However, the Pacific Merchants Shipping Association says the meeting itself reveals a weakness that has not yet been fixed -- transparency.

"The state pilotage commission is the oldest in the history of the state of California and it has been operating in the backwater of California governance for over 150 years. They haven't submitted a report as to their performance since the Eisenhower administration," said John McLaurin with the Pacific Merchants Shipping Association.

The association says key stakeholders, including environmentalists and the public, were left out.

"The commissions exist to serve the public, not the licensees," said McLaurin.

But the board says it did announce the Portland meeting and it says it did not organize it -- Portland did.

A new law going into effect in January requires pilot boards be audited by the state.


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