Every Bird Matters
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Posts Tagged ‘Cosco Busan’

January 26, 2010

Cosco Busan bird toll update; Plovers survive spill

A new federal bird report on the damage caused by a 2007 San Francisco Bay oil spill says the endangered Snowy Plover survived the spill in good numbers, but other species weren’t so lucky.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service report says at least 6,700 ducks, loons, cormorants, gulls, pelicans and other birds were probably killed by the bunker fuel that spilled from the Cosco Busan Nov. 7, 2007. The container ship was being escorted by a pilot boat in heavy early morning fog when it side-swiped the Bay Bridge support structure.

The bird death toll was determined by multiplying the known bird body count by a factor of roughly 2.3.

According to the report, a 2.3 figure was computed by studying how long bird carcasses laid on beaches, how hard they were to find and how many of the deaths were caused by factors unrelated to the oil spill.

The good news is that nearly all Bay Area snowy plovers — tiny white-and-brown birds that nest in sand dunes and are listed federally as a threatened species — survived the deadly oil spill. The oil spread from Oakland and Alameda waters out the Golden Gate and closed beaches in San Francisco and Marin Counties.

IBRRC was one of the lead organizations responding to the spill and treated over 1,000 birds in its Northern California OWCN wildlife rescue center.

Birds killed due to 2007 Cosco Busan accident:

1,632 Diving ducks, including scoters and scaup
87 Loons
1,133 Western, Clark’s and other large grebes
494 Eared, horned and other small grebes
129 Northern fulmars
484 Cormorants
215 Gulls
21 Brown pelicans
609 Common murres
13 Marbled murrelets
130 Other members of the alcid family
1,421 Shorebirds
318 Other marsh or land birds

6,688 Total

Read more at the San Francisco Examiner

Photos courtesy:

Oiled Surf Scoter in Alameda. (Photo: Glenn Tepke)

Snowy Plover along shore (Photo: Tom Grey)

July 18, 2009

Cosco Busan ship pilot gets 10 months in jail

This week a federal judge finally sentenced the ship pilot to 10 months in prison for his responsibility in the 2007 Cosco Busan oil spill in the San Francisco Bay that caused widespread bird deaths.

Capt. John Cota, 61, of Petaluma, CA is the first ship’s pilot in U.S. maritime history to be sent to prison for a shipping accident.

During a brief statement at the end of the hourlong hearing in Federal court Friday, Cota apologized to the judge and the public for the harm he had caused.

“Pilots view themselves as protectors of the environment,” he was quoted in the San Francisco Chronicle story. “That’s why it is painful to have played a role in an accident that has damaged it.”

The ship’s pilot was helping guide the Cosco Busan container ship out of San Francisco Bay when it struck the SF Bay Bridge in heavy fog on an early morning in November 2007. More than 50,000 gallons of bunker crude spilled into the bay and spread to area beaches.

In sentencing Cota, Judge Illston told him the jail time reflects lawmakers efforts to punish criminally negiligent parties following the horrific Exxon Valdez spill.

Following the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill of 11 million gallons of oil into Prince William Sound, Alaska, the tanker’s captain, Joseph Hazelwood, was fined only $50,000 but did’t spent any time in jail.

During the Cosco Busan spill thousands of birds were killed by the fast spreading spill. IBRRC working with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network (OWCN), helped rescue and rehabilitate more than 420 birds that were returned to the wild.

Read more: San Francisco Chronicle story

Also see: After the Cosco Busan spill

March 7, 2009

Cosco Busan pilot boat captain pleads guilty

The Cosco Busan pilot boat captain has finally pleaded guilty this week to federal water pollution charges in an plea agreement that will force him to serve up to 10 months in prison.

Capt. John Cota, admitted that he made serious mistakes in piloting the Cosco Busan container ship through heavy fog Nov. 7, 2007. The 900 foot ship struck the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge spilling 53,000 gallons of its bunker crude oil.

Cota has also admitted to not telling authorities that he was using prescription drugs when he renewed his maritime pilot’s licenses in 2006 and 2007.

The guilty plea “is a reminder that the Cosco Busan crash was not just an accident, but a criminal act,” Justice Department official John Cruden said in a statement. “This is not a case involving a mere mistake.”

Cota’s defense attorney, isn’t buying all the charges and says: “An incompetent, untrained crew and mistakes by the Coast Guard” contributed heavily to the accident.

The spill caused widespread deaths to birds in the SF Bay. IBRRC was one of the lead oiled bird responders on the spill that stretched from Marin County beaches to Alameda County and Contra Costa County shorelines. More bird treatment info

Read more: San Francisco Chronicle story

December 1, 2008

Cosco Busan spill: What birds species were affected

In all the rush of news from the Cosco Busan spill, we neglected to post this “Bird Injury Summary” from the spill. It was collected by the government agencies involved in the spill.

The report shows the number and species of birds collected live and dead and includes a chart showing the bird collection numbers by day during the November 2007 spill.


• Highest number of affected species was the Surf Scoter at 766
• Next highest: Western Grebe at 404
• More than 200 birds were collected four days after the spill

Download the PDF here

October 26, 2008

Report: Cosco Busan pilot at fault for accident

Almost a year after the Cosco Busan left it’s deadly wake of oil spilled on San Francisco Bay, the pilot’s captain in charge of the ship has been ruled at fault.

Capt. John Cota “failed to exercise sound judgment,” the pilot commission ruled in a report released this week. Cota has already given up his license and is under a seven count indictment in Federal court of violating the law by spilling oil and killing federally protected birds.

Cota, 60 of Petaluma, CA was in charge of piloting the 900-foot container ship out of San Francisco Bay on November 7, 2007 when it smashed into the Bay Bridge. After side-swiping the bridge, the ship’s tanks carrying bunker oil were ruptured. The 50,000 gallon spill killed at least 2,500 birds.

“Oh, yeah, it’s so foggy. I shouldn’t have gone,” the Cota was recorded saying on the morning of the spill. “I’m not going to do well on this one.” The morning fog was thick during the 8:30 AM mishap.

The 65,000-ton ship, which was bound for Busan, South Korea, was moving at nearly 13 miles an hour when it hit the bridge tower.

IBRRC and other agencies worked feverishly following the spill to capture and save as many oiled birds as possible. More than 1,000 birds were brought to our bird center in Fairfield, CA. Only 421 were returned the wild. Some biologists estimate that some 20,000 birds ultimately died in the spill and may have died elsewhere or sunk in the bay.

Read more: San Francisco Chronicle

October 7, 2008

Schwarzenegger vetos/signs oil spill cleanup bills

Nearly a year following the oil spill that fouled San Francisco Bay, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger last week signed seven bills to help quicken response to spills and to train local volunteer. However, the governor also angered many environmentalists by vetoing three tougher bills.

“Sadly the governor vetoed the stronger bills,” said Warner Chabot in the San Jose Mercury News. “He gave us the gravy but not the meat,” said Chabot, vice president of the Ocean Conservancy, an environmental group in San Francisco.

Schwarzenegger dumped SB 1056, by Sen. Carole Migden, D-San Francisco, which would have required cleanup crews to respond to spills in San Francisco Bay within two hours, instead of six, as the law now requires.

AB 2032 was vetoed, by Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-El Cerrito, which have raised the state fee charged to oil companies from 5 cents a barrel to 8 cents a barrel on oil brought into California waters. This would have raised an additional $19 million in new funding for state oil spill response.

Lastly, he vetoed AB 2547, by Assemblyman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, that earmarked $1 million a year for grants to companies that develop newer oil spill cleanup technology.

The package of bills signed Monday, September 29, 2008 includes:

• AB2031 by Assemblywoman Loni Hancock, D-Berkeley forces the state’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) to setup training and certifications of managers that would turn around and train volunteers.

• AB2935, by Assemblyman Jared Huffman, D-San Rafael, requires the Department of Fish and Game to close waters to fisherman within 24 hours of an oil spill of 42 gallons or more.

• SB1739, by Senator Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, mandates spill responders to be adequately trained in part by regular and unannounced emergency drills.

• AB1960, by Assemblyman Pedro Nava, D-Santa Barbara, creates an inland oil-spill prevention program.

• AB2911, by Assemblywoman Lois Wolk, D-Davis, makes state Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) administrator’s responsibility to include overseeing clean-up of inland oil spills.

• SB1217, by Senator Leland Yee, D-San Francisco, requires the Board of Pilot Commissioners to submit an annual report to the Legislature regarding licensees, including review of the physical fitness of pilots.

• SB1627, by Senator Patricia Wiggins, D-Santa Rosa, places the Board of Pilot Commissioners under the oversight of the state Business, Transportation and Housing Agency.

The spate of bills follow the November 7, 2007 incident that spilled more than 50,000 gallons of bunker crude into San Francisco Bay. The spill response was roundly criticized as too slow, uncoordinated and frustrating to public volunteers who were prevented from quickly helping cleaning up oil or capture oiled animals without attending a mandatory volunteer orientation.

Scientists believe the spill may have killed 20,000 birds. IBRRC was instrumental in rescuing 1,000 but only 420 were returned to the wild.

Cosco Busan response report on IBRRC website

Read the San Francisco Chronicle story

San Jose Mercury News story

September 26, 2008

Wildlife rescue training marks Cosco Busan anniversary

Rescuing disabled wild animals requires a unique set of skills, very different from those used in handling domestic animals. WildRescue is offering a unique class on these commands, taught by international experts who respond to wildlife emergencies on a regular basis. While the class is tailored for animal control officers, park rangers, game wardens, biologists, and wildlife rehabilitators, members of the public are invited. Students must be 18 years or older.

Helping to mark the one-year anniversary of the Cosco Busan disaster, the first class of many classes is being offered November 8th through the Berkeley Marina Shorebird Park Nature Center. A second, hosted by the Farallones Marine Sanctuary, is slated for December 6th, at Crissy Field. For more information on hosting a class in your area, or to register, go to wildrescue.org or call 831-869-6241. Class fee is $40 with discounts available to government agencies and charities.

“There are a lot of people out there who want to know how to help animals in crisis. History has shown us that when we don’t give them that information, they’ll take things into their own hands, said Jay Holcomb, Executive Director of the International Bird Rescue Research Center. “By providing this type of training, we’re able to guide people to work within the system for the greater good.”

WildRescue’s director, Rebecca Dmytryk, sees this educational campaign as a means of building a community’s corps of specially trained individuals who may be called upon to rescue injured wild animals – be there one or thousands. She hopes many will be recruited by local rescue organizations wishing to bolster their own capabilities.

July 24, 2008

Cosco Busan operator obstructed justice?

In the latest twist in the legal wrangling following the Cosco Busan oil spill in San Francisco Bay, federal prosecutors accused the firm in charge of the container ship of falsifying documents to obstruct the investigation in the November 2007 event.

This week a federal grand jury in San Francisco indicted Fleet Management Ltd. of Hong Kong of six charges of making false statements and obstructing justice, the company was accused of two misdemeanor counts of criminal negligence for allegedly helping to cause the spill.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle story

The container ship struck the San Francisco Bay Bridge on a foggy morning on November 7, 2007. It caused widespread bird deaths on the bay and closed beaches along the bay and outside the bay along Marin and San Francisco County beaches. More than 420 birds were returned to the wild. At least 2,500 perished in the bunker crude spill.

Read about the Spill response from our perspective

June 11, 2008

Silver lining in Cosco Busan spill: Great volunteers

For every dark cloud there’s always a silver lining and the horrible Cosco Busan oil spill was no different. Hundreds of dedicated volunteers showed up from all over California and from the far reaches of the United States to care for oiled birds. They helped transport birds, washed laundry and cleaned cages. Without their incredible efforts the success we had returning washed birds back into the wild would not have been possible.

Two of our “new” local volunteers, a husband and wife team, Yvonne McHugh and Tony Brake of Berkeley (pictured above on the far right and left), share their stories:

For me, volunteering at IBRRC in Cordelia following the Cosco Busan disaster relieved a sense of helplessness and despair by focusing my physical and mental energy on the care and treatment of aquatic birds oiled in the spill. Due to that experience, I’ve often imagined that it would be appropriate to have painted over the entrance to the IBRRC in Cordelia, “Embrace hope, all ye who enter here”.

I had recent bird handling experience from working with raptors in the banding program of the Golden Gate Raptor Observatory (GGRO), but at the time of the Cosco Busan spill, I hadn’t participated in rehabilitating oiled birds since the late 1970s or 1980s (at the Aquatic Center in Berkeley). When I started helping in the IBRRC Wash Room, it was tremendously heartening for me to discover the technical progress that had been made in washing oiled birds, both increasing the release rate and sparing the washer as well. There was another up-side to this task: During the hours spent holding birds for their washing and rinsing I began to notice differences in hard-wired behavior between bird species, as well as individual personalities. My previous experience with seabirds, waterfowl and waders had been simply to identify them and observe their behavior through binoculars and to compare the field marks to those in the color plates of birding field guides – I never anticipated the extraordinary beauty of these birds when viewed from only inches away; the feel and luster of their feathers; the intelligence in the evaluating gaze of a Brown Pelican; the expressive and varied vocalizations as the birds protested being washed and rinsed; or, the species-specific bill-pinch or poke that the birds used to try to re-establish their comfort zone.

By the end of the first day of working in the Stabilization Room (a.k.a., the Hot Zone or Holding 2), catching and holding birds for their tube-feeding and re-hydration, and helping with examinations and collecting lab samples, I committed to learning as much as I could about species-specific oiled aquatic bird treatment so that I would be more useful at IBRRC in the future. It should be noted that in spite of those working in The Hot Zone being in crisis-response mode, I experienced amazing kindness from the IBRRC staff and the experienced volunteers. Day after day, sweating for hours in oil-smeared Tyvek coveralls in a hot room reeking of bunker oil, they still managed to be patient and to maintain a sense of humor while training us new volunteers: when I was given the task of retrieving an American Coot from a lower wall cage, and it ended up sitting on top of the head of my experienced colleague like a fancy Coot hat, she joined me in a good laugh. This, she told me, was not unexpected behavior for the very elusive and always dashing-for-freedom Coot. And it was not an uncommon event for the Tyvek coveralls of the experienced volunteers to get “decorated” with explosive streams of mash or fish slurry because we newcomers had once again forgotten their advice to hold the feeding tube on tightly to the syringe tip while pushing hard on the plunger.

Between Wash Room and Hot Zone stints, I managed a banding and “paperwork resolution” station in the Drying Room (Holding 1) along with other volunteers whose assignment was to re-organize and file the paperwork. As slightly steaming, rather soaked volunteers in fogged-up safety glasses, apron, boots and gloves emerged from the Wash Room, I would by any means (other than raising my voice) capture their attention and direct them over to my station. Each held a washed and rinsed bird completely bundled up in a towel, and on top of the towel would be the bird’s previous leg band, removed before washing (often oily). My job was to note the time, the species and the old band number into the Log; and then to re-band the bird with a Tyvek band, having written the number on the band so that it was legible and indisputable (68 versus 89, careful with 4s and 7s!). It was while re-banding the washed birds that I first became aware of the beauty and variety of aquatic birds’ feet, for instance, the delicate shading of the grebes’ and loons’ leaf-like feet, which are never illustrated in conventional birding field guides! After banding, I would guide the volunteer to the person managing the rows of pelagic boxes in which birds were being dried. The final task was to update each bird’s paperwork (this sometimes involved tracking it down in the Hot Zone or the Clinic), and then turn it over to the other volunteer working with me to file it. It was a miracle how well it all worked.

One evening after the Wash Room closed for the day and my banding and paperwork station shut down, it was discovered that an additional 60 pair of little socks were needed for birds coming in from the cold water pools to spend the night in pelagic boxes. Three volunteers (a young student studying barnacles at a local college, my hsuband and I) set up a rapid little sock assembly line to make sizes appropriate for a variety of species (short, medium, long and very long lengths – again, you don’t learn about foot size and hock length from a birding field guide!). Each of us experimented to find the best way to make them (goal: efficiency, the least tape needed, and sturdy). Our varied cutting and taping strategies made me wonder what solution an equal number of MIT students would have come up with under similar circumstances.

It makes perfect sense that releasing healthy rehabilitated birds is the highlight of the IBRRC volunteering experience. As soon as the birds’ body condition and blood values indicate they are releasable, the IBRRC staff moves into high gear to find a trained volunteer to release the birds as soon as possible at an appropriate pre-designated location – this offers the best chance for survival. One day I transported and released an assortment of bird species into Horseshoe Cove (Fort Baker) by the Golden Gate Bridge, then drove back to the IBRRC and picked up a Ross’ Goose for release at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge (NWR) north of Williams.

When I arrived at Fort Baker the cove was filled with a hundreds of Western and Clark’s Grebes. First, I opened the transport carrier doors for the Brown Pelicans – without hesitation they walked slowly into the water with a dignified air, swam about 50 feet into the cove and got to work giving their large wings a thorough cleansing. They flapped their wings so hard that it sounded like bed sheets flapping on a clothesline during a Santa Ana wind or a large jib luffing in the middle of a tack in a strong breeze. They paddled out of the cove toward the bay. I saw them catch the ebb current and off they floated toward the bridge. Next, two transport boxes of Bufflehead – as I opened each box the birds burst into flight. They flew about 300 feet to the east side the cove and landed closely together. A released Greater Scaup swam briskly away, but then hauled out on the other side of the cove to preen. Eventually it re-entered the water and seemed fine. A Western Gull flew to a piling and preened. The other birds simply flew or swam away without a backward glance. Freedom!

I had been instructed that the Ross’ Goose needed to be released at a location where it could join up with Snow Geese; and with enough daylight hours left for it to find its way to a flock for its first night back in the wild. I had gotten behind schedule due to monitoring the released Greater Scaup at Fort Baker, so when I arrived at the Sacramento NWR there was only about an hour of daylight remaining. I located a Snow Goose flock in a field about 2 miles along the auto tour route, about a half mile away from the road. But when I set the transport carrier down at the edge of the field and opened its door, the bird stayed quietly inside. I finally tipped the carrier forward a bit so that the goose walked out, but it didn’t seem to sense the Snow Goose flock even though their contact calls were audible. I tried to encourage it to go toward the flock by slowly walking behind it, still wearing my green rubber boots necessary for the earlier releases. The bird walked in an “S” pattern, and so necessarily did I, to keep it moving in the right direction. I looked at the bird, a lone, bright white bird on a big brown landscape, and knew that I either had to ensure it found the flock or I had to take it back to IBRRC for the night. At that moment, a goose several hundred feet ahead flew up into the air, calling, and the Ross’ Goose immediately took to the air, also calling, and joined it. The previously injured wing treated at IBRRC looked fine in flight. Through my binoculars I tracked both geese until they landed in the middle of the Snow Goose flock. Then I raced back to Berkeley and got to my polling place in time to vote.

We cannot imagine a better place to volunteer than the IBRRC at Cordelia. There is a convergence of shared goals and interests; all Staff members are uniquely well-qualified to manage volunteers; and science and compassion find a perfect marriage in the IBRRC volunteer program.

– Yvonne McHugh

Another impression:

How did we come to be regular volunteers at the IBRRC? Like many of the newer volunteers, we got our start during the response to the Cosco Busan oil spill last November (2007). Our path to the IBRRC was a bit circuitous. We first heard about the Bay Bridge collision of the Cosco Busan on Wednesday, November 7, but had only heard of the initial report of a small spill of bunker oil (140 gallons). Somehow, we missed seeing any updated news indicating that the spill was of major proportions. On Friday morning, however, we saw the front page spread of the SF Chronicle detailing the extent of the damage to the SF Bay, in particular seabirds. (We spend a lot of time observing the birds on San Francisco Bay and had just recently noticed the arrival of large numbers of wintering birds such as Surf Scoters and Common Loons off-shore from the Berkeley Pier.) We were anxious to somehow help, but didn’t know where to volunteer. The SF Chronicle story mentioned an OSPR meeting at Richmond Marina the next day to inform potential volunteers about the activities of OCWN and IBRRC. We attended the meeting, but unfortunately it turned a bit chaotic in part due to the large number of people who showed up. We did manage to find out there that there was an operational center set up at the Berkeley Marina through the Shorebird Park Nature Center, which was searching for and collecting oiled birds for transport to the IBRRC. I stopped there on the way home from the meeting and signed us up as volunteers and spent a couple of hours late in the day patrolling the shore for oiled birds.

In the meantime, we had received an email from Michael Martin of the Golden Gate Audubon Society (GGAS) who was organizing volunteers to monitor sites on San Francisco Bay that might otherwise not be surveyed, i.e., places where no oil was reported, but birds oiled at other locations might seek refuge there. We were assigned to a group led by Glen Tepke to survey the south shore of Alameda. We indeed found numerous oiled birds some of which had beached themselves and others that were still in the water, but trying to preen their oiled feathers. At the Oakland-Alameda boundary we spotted the Cosco Busan. The ship had been unloaded of its cargo so the huge hole in its port side was now well above waterline. This was a starting conclusion to our first day of monitoring the effects of the oil spill.

We sent the data from our survey (species and location) to Michael Martin at GGAS, who forwarded it to the OSPR Search and Collection teams. We continued monitoring this area throughout the next week with Harv Wilson who recorded the exact locations of oiled birds with GIS. He later aided the OSPR crews in locating and capturing some of the oiled Alameda birds once the OSPR was able to expand its efforts from the heavily oiled areas of the Bay. Later, while we were working in IBRRC Oiled Intake, I noticed two birds from the Elsie Roemer Bird Sanctuary in our Alameda survey area brought in for care.

It was frustrating to be unable to help the affected birds that we found and we were anxious to find a way to take a more active role in the response, if possible. Early the next week, we got a call from Patty Donald of the City of Berkeley Shorebird Park Nature Center recommending that we call the IBRRC in Cordelia if we were interested in volunteering at the rehabilitation center. Unlike Yvonne, I had no bird handling experience other than once rescuing a fatally injured Western Screech Owl from the road in Berkeley’s Tilden Park, but I hoped to be able to contribute to the rehabilitation effort in some manner. Thus, we leaped at the chance to be able be involved in a hands-on way. We reported in at IBRRC about five days after the initial oil spill for the initial orientation and stepped right into the fray. What a mind-blowing scene! We got our start in the washroom. It was an amazing experience to see these tragically oiled birds being washed to reveal their beautiful feathers so important to their survival. Over the next few days we worked in other stages of the operation including Oiled Intake, Stabilization and the Drying Room. Although there were many heartbreaking moments (e.g., triage in Oiled Intake), it was particularly delightful to see the birds that had made it outside to the cold-water pools preening and diving and looking like the birds we see in the wild. A highlight was when we were invited to come along for the “wash room crew” release of some rehabilitated birds at Heart’s Desire Beach on Tomales Bay on November 21st. The celebrity of this release was a pelagic species, a Rhinoceros Auklet who, when placed on the water, immediately dove and then put on an exhibition of underwater “flying” through the shallow crystal clear water before heading off into deeper waters of the bay.

We were impressed with the skill and dedication to the staff and experienced volunteers, not to mention their patience with novices such as us. We knew right away that this was an opportunity to gain training and experience to be of more substantial help in the case of any future spills. After working at the IBRRC numerous days in the weeks following the spill, we signed on as regular weekly volunteers at the end of December 2007 and feel very fortunate to be part of what might be called “Team Aquatic Bird”.

–Tony Brake

More info:

Sign-up to volunteer in San Francisco Bay Area or Southern California

IBRRC response to Cosco Busan oil spill

May 26, 2008

Good suggestions in final Cosco Busan spill report

The second and final report on the response Cosco Busan oil spill was released this month and there’s some very good recommendations on how to better coordinate wildlife responders in the event of another spill.

The recommendations included:

– Deploying more trained Search and Collection teams in a timely manner.

– Better communication between S&C teams and with supervisors.

– Improving security and enforcement in public areas where large numbers of oiled birds in distress are in need of collection. (Many oiled animals were scarred by out-to-lunch Joe Q. Public types walking dogs, running on beaches in sensitive areas where cold, tired and oiled birds beached themselves).

Also, the Oiled Wildlife Care Network’s (OWCN) Hotwash, a post spill meeting to shed light on the ups and downs of the response, provided a list of equipment that all Search and Collection teams need in the future. This included: maps, binoculars (made for low-visibility conditions), computers for entering data from field; flash lights, batteries, and redundant equipment. Some interviewees indicated that additional types of netting could be helpful in capturing groups of oiled birds.

The November 7, 2007 spill hit San Francisco Bay after the Cosco Busan container ship dumped 54,000 gallons of bunker oil into the waters during prime migratory bird season. The Coast Guard’s response and other state agencies has been under fire for it’s slow reporting efforts and its lackluster efforts to capture distressed birds in a timely fashion.

IBRRC is a long-time OWCN network member and its management and contract employees made many recommendations that were included in the final report.

The report is entitled: Incident Specific Preparedness Review (ISPR), M/V Cosco Busan Oil Spill in San Francisco Bay. PART II AND FINAL REPORT. It was released on May 7, 2008.

Download the full 80 page report here:


April 23, 2008

Cosco Busan pilot slapped with felony charges

Another legal slap, this one serious, has been handed down to the Cosco Busan pilot who was in charge of navigating the container ship that struck the Bay Bridge and spilled 54,000 gallons of oil.

Today a federal grand jury added two felony counts of lying to the Coast Guard to an earlier indictment. The new charges stem from physical exams he took in January 2006 and January 2007 to renew his federal pilot’s license. In those exams, the pilot, John Cota, 60, of Petaluma, did not disclose the host of medications he was taking.

Because of the spill, thousands of birds perished in the San Francisco Bay Area. Many more are believed dead after the November 7, 2007 spill closed beaches in the bay and along the outer coastline in Marin County and at San Francisco’s Ocean Beach.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle story online

April 9, 2008

NTSB: Pilot’s personal issues affected judgement

A National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) hearing looking into the Cosco Busan oil spill, shed more light on the personal problems of the pilot captain that may have contributed to the disaster on San Francisco Bay.

The NTSB revealed that Capt. John Cota is an alcoholic who also was using prescription drugs during work hours to treat depression and sleep apnea.

“I wouldn’t want anyone taking those medicines and having to make decisions in a safety-sensitive position,” Dr. Robert Bourgeois told an NTSB panel on Wednesday.

With Cota piloting the 900-foot Cosco Busan, the ship struck the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in heavy fog on November 7, 2007. It spilled toxic fuel oil into the bay that fouled the bay and killed at least 2,500 birds.

Cota through his attorney is refusing to testify at the panel’s hearing in Washington, DC this week. He is citing his 5th amendment right against self incrimination.

Read the San Francisco Chronicle story

April 8, 2008

In wake of SF oil spill: Legislators get busy

The hue and cry over the Cosco Busan oil spill response in San Francisco Bay is finally making itself heard in the California legislature. A least seven new bills have been introduced to force improvements on everything from the state’s oil spill response to volunteer training.

The spill dumped almost 54,000 gallons of bunker crude into the bay after the 900-foot Cosco Busan container ship struck the San Francisco Bay Bridge in heavy fog. The November 2007 disaster closed beaches and killed at least 2,500 birds.

The bills to force change cleared the Assembly Natural Resources committee and will be sent on to the General Assembly.

The bills include:

– Requiring the office of the Oil Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) to provide grants that allow local emergency officials to train and certify volunteers to help in cleanup efforts.

-Increasing the Oil Spill Response Trust Fund from $55 million to $100 million by imposing a 25 cent fee on each barrel of oil produced in or imported into California.

– Improve recovery of wildlife affected by an oil spill by developing and implementing training programs for local officials and volunteers.

These bills are the most significant to come out of the legislature since the middle 1990s when a couple of ammendments added more bite to the original Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act that was passed in 1990. That Act required the Administrator of the California Department of Fish and Game (CDFG), Office of Spill Prevention and Response (OSPR) to establish rescue and rehabilitation stations for aquatic birds, sea otters, and other marine mammals.

Later in 1993, Senate Bill 775 allowed OSPR to use the interest accrued from the State’s Oil Spill Response Trust Fund to build at least six major centers to care for oiled wildlife.

Read more: San Francisco Chronicle

March 28, 2008

New rules for shipping in fog on SF Bay

After studying the aftermath of the Cosco Busan’s collision with the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, the U.S. Coast Guard issued new restrictions Thursday for ships traveling on the bay during dense fog.

The Coast Guard will now limit vessels from sailing on the bay when foggy conditions limit visibility by less than half a mile. The guidelines apply to ships weighing more than 1,600 gross tons – such as tankers, large cargo vessels and cruise ships. The rules affect nine San Francisco Bay areas including those near the Bay Bridge, the San Mateo Bridge and the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge.

According to the report, the decision to set sail in dense fog played a key role in the November 7, 2007 collision with the bridge. The Coast Guard also revealed that at least four other ships decided against sailing that morning because of the foggy conditions.

The ship’s pilot captain has already pleaded not guilty in federal court to two misdemeanor violations in connection with the spill.

The Cosco Busan spilled more than 53,000 gallons of toxic oil into the bay, stained miles of Bay Area and ocean shoreline and killed at least 2,500 birds.

See: Cosco Busan faulted for sailing in heavy fog, San Francisco Chronicle

March 26, 2008

Timeline of Cosco Busan spill: First 90 minutes

This is a timeline of the Cosco Busan spill. It shows how fast things happen after an oil spill – and why acting quickly is important. The Nov. 7, 2007 spill put 53,569 gallons of fuel oil into San Francisco Bay.

Here are the first 90 minutes:

8:30 a.m.: Harbor pilot Capt. John Cota, guiding the 900-foot Cosco Busan out of port, notifies vessel traffic service that the ship “touched” a Bay Bridge pier.

8:37: Spill first reported by president of Bar Pilots Association; details scant.

8:54: Cota calls U.S. Coast Guard, reports ship discharging fuel.

8:55: New pilot boards Cosco Busan, replacing Cota.

9 a.m.: Deadline under state law for ship’s crew to place four phone calls reporting spill.

9:03: Coast Guard vessel under way to the ship carrying its own spill investigator.

9:05: First cleanup contractor learns of accident from a third party.

9:10: Contractor dispatches first two cleanup vessels; San Francisco Fire Department calls Coast Guard to offer aid, is turned away.

9:15: Cosco Busan crew makes first required phone call about spill, to its owner-representative.

9:17: Replacement pilot calls second cleanup contractor, leaves message.

9:18: Second contractor calls back, is told spill is about 400 gallons.

9:23: Pilot reports ship is no longer leaking fuel.

9:30: First contractor on scene. Reports heavy fog but finds no oil.

9:35: Contractor smells oil and reports “heavy sheen” on water.

9:42: State Office of Emergency Services notified of spill by ship’s owner-representative.

9:45: State oil spill expert arrives at Yerba Buena Island command center, begins three-hour wait to board Cosco Busan.

9:50: Coast Guard pollution investigator boards Cosco Busan.

10 a.m.: Contractor gets approval to begin skimming oil.

Source: U.S. Coast Guard Incident Specific Preparedness Review committee report, Jan. 11.

– From the Sacramento Bee