Every Bird Matters
news and views from international bird rescue

January 29, 2008

No big surprises: Report criticizes Coast Guard

A new report on the San Francisco Oil Spill response officially released today, won’t surprise most folks. The Coast Guard is roundly criticized for it’s incredibly slow communication the first day of the spill when it took nearly 10 hours to let people know that copius amounts of oil spilled from the Cosco Busan container ship.

The report documents how government agencies failed to get the word out after the ship hit the Bay Bridge at 8:30 a.m. Nov. 7. First reports had the size of the spill at 140 gallons. It wasn’t until almost 5 p.m. that the Coast Guard figured out the spill was 58,000 gallons.

Also the report said the actual amount that spilled into the bay was 53,569 gallons. A total of 44 percent was recovered: 36 percent off the water and another 8 percent along the shoreline.

Many of the communication problems were hampered by language barriers. Coast Guard investigators had a hard time communicating with the Chinese-speaking crew. They had to resort to drawing pictures to find out what happened during the ship’s collision with the San Francisco Bay Bridge.

Another disturbing item in the report: some of the Coast Guard officers in charge of the spill response had little understanding of oil spill response and were unfamiliar with the geography of the Bay Area.

At least 2,500 birds died in the spill. Over 400 were cleaned of oil and released back into the wild. IBRRC working with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN) helped rehabilitate the birds, mostly scaups, grebes and scoters.

Download the 137 page report (1.6 MB PDF): Incident Specific Preparedness Review (ISPR) M/V Cosco Busan Oil Spill in San Francisco Bay (Acrobat Reader required)

Also see the San Francisco Chronicle online report

And the Carl Nolte followup story: Errors, praise listed in spill report

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