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Oil spill contained as clean-up continues

on October 30, 2009

UPDATED: 9:00p.m.

A still-undetermined amount of oil spilled from the Panamanian-flagged tanker ship the Dubai Star into the San Francisco Bay Friday morning around 6:48 AM, causing an oil slick two miles long and 220 yards wide.

Oil is no longer leaking into the Bay, said US Coast Guard Captain Paul Gugg at a press conference Friday afternoon, and has not reached the shoreline.  Oil trajectory models predict the oil may reach the North Alameda Island, Bay Farm Inland, Yerba Buena Island, and Treasure Island this evening, according to the Guard.

The US Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Game’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response, and the ship owner, South Harmony Shipping, are managing the cleanup together, said the Guard.  Cleanup probably will not be completed by the end of the day, Gugg said. Two private companies were also contracted to assist with the cleanup, said Coast Guard Lieutenant Junior Jeremy Pichette, after the conference.

At the time of the spill, the ship was located 2.5 miles south of the Bay Bridge, west of Alameda and Oakland, Gugg said. The spilled bunker oil powered the Dubai Star, Gugg said, and leaked during a fuel transfer. It was not, he said, the ship’s cargo oil, a highly refined light jet fuel.  The bunker oil first spilled onto the ship’s deck before entering the water, Gugg said.

The bunker oil is similar to the oil that contaminated the Bay in November 2007, when the container ship Cosco Busan hit the Bay Bridge. The size of the current spill, however, is “nothing like 2007,” Gugg said, and unlike the fog present the day of the spill two years ago, today’s air offers “perfect visibility,” Gugg said. High visibility allows the Guard to track and determine where the oil is headed and also increases the speed of burn-off, a process where the sun breaks down the oil, Pichette said.

The safety measures in place during the routine fuel transfer between the ship and a barge were “inadequate,” Gugg said.   The initial Guard assessment, completed after the press conference, determined the spill was caused by a mechanical malfunction. Further investigations into the malfunction are underway, Pichette said.

Gugg said this afternoon he was satisfied with the response equipment deployed to the spill.  The equipment currently includes 13 response boats, skimmers, a helicopter, and 11,000 feet of boom, a line of floating barriers that helps contain the oil spill. This is a tenfold increase in boom since this afternoon.

When the Coast Guard first learned about the spill this morning, said Guard Petty Officer Erik Swanson, it made notifications to the potentially responsible parties, cleanup contractors, and federal and state agencies in accordance with its Regional Response Plan.  The Guard sent at least one boat and a helicopter to the scene to assess the size of the spill and work to contain it, which took four hours, Gugg said. Friday morning, the Guard established a 100-yard security zone around the vessel and spill site and opened the Federal Trust Fund that aids spill responses, Swanson said.

According to the Coast Guard, pollution investigators from Coast Guard Sector San Francisco were dispatched to the scene to investigate and assist with the oil spill recovery soon after the reported spill.

There have been no signs of environmental pollution said California Department of Fish and Game Lieutenant Rob Roberts, and according to the Coast Guard, no oiled wildlife has been reported.  The Department of Fish and Game has activated the Oiled Wildlife Care Network to conduct wildlife searches.  The oil first traveled south with the tide but then reversed north, the direction of its current travel, when the water ebbed, helping to contain it, Pichette said.

Monique Moyer, Director of the Port of San Francisco, announced at the press conference that ferry transportation will not be affected by the oil spill.

Image: Representatives from the US Coast Guard, California Department of Fish and Game and the City of San Francisco spoke at a press conference Friday about the Dubai Star oil spill into San Francisco Bay.

1 Comment

  1. […] Oil spill contained as clean-up continues A still-undetermined amount of oil spilled from the Panamanian-flagged tanker ship the Dubai Star into the San Francisco Bay, causing an oil slick two miles long and 220 yards wide. Story by Lindsay Wasserberger. […]

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