Baykeeper Update

$1.96 Million Payment for 2009 Bay Oil Spill

The owner and operator of the Dubai Star, a tanker that spilled 422 gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay in 2009, will pay $1.96 million to settle violations of state clean water laws. The payment will be used primarily to restore wildlife habitat and enhance public recreation in the East Bay.

Oil spilled on October 30, 2009—sticky, black bunker fuel—coated 10 miles of Alameda County beaches. Crown Beach had to be closed for 25 days. The state Department of Fish and Game estimates that the spill killed 186 birds, including brown pelicans, American coots and shorebirds.

The bunker fuel contaminated the Bay while the Dubai Star was refueling from a barge in the water south of the Bay Bridge, between San Francisco and Alameda. A tank overflowed, but no alarms sounded, and no one was on the deck of the tanker to notice the thick, black fuel spilling onto the deck and into the water. It took hours for the state to be notified so cleanup companies could be mobilized.

Since our leadership role in responding to the Cosco Busan oil spill of November 2007, San Francisco Baykeeper has worked to improve oil spill planning and response for San Francisco Bay and across the state. State legislation signed into law last fall and sponsored by Baykeeper will require stricter oversight of ships transferring fuel on the open water. The law, AB1112, authored by Assembly member Jared Huffman, also increased fees on oil companies to fund the state’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response. Without this bill, funding for California oil spill programs would have been slashed.

Baykeeper is also member of the San Francisco Harbor Safety Committee, which has been working to develop protective measures for ship-to-ship fueling. The measures include expanded training for fueling crews; a designated Person In Charge on the receiving ship to oversee operations and meet face-to-face with the fueling crew to go over procedures; and a person to roam the deck monitoring the tanks as they fill. Under the new practices, when any concerns arise at all, fueling is supposed to be shut down immediately. Ships will also need an advance plan for contacting emergency responders in the event of a spill.

Baykeeper will continue our work to improve oil spill planning and response policies in order to better protect the Bay from the threat of oil spills.