The owners of the Dubai Star oil tanker has to shell out $1.96 million for a 2009 oil spill in the San Francisco Bay that impacted more than 200 acres and killed some 100 seabirds, San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón said today.
County District Attorney Nancy O'Malley, charged South Harmony Shipping of Panama, owners of the Dubai Star, with violating the Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act and the Fish & Game Code.
The complaint claims that the bunker oil overflowed out of the tank, onto the deck, and into the bay because a valve failed to close after a crewmember turned the wheel that was supposed to close it. Another crewmember overseeing tank levels from the control room "inexplicably failed to notice on his computer monitor" that the levels had exceeded capacity.
There were two alarms set up to go off when this happened, and neither of them sounded. Nobody on board noticed the ship's deck filling up with oil until more than 400 gallons had spilled. The captain of the ship did not notify any federal or state authorities until about 30 minutes after the accident, which leaked between 400 and 800 gallons of oil and took seven months to clean.
The spill is minor when compared to the 2007 Cosco Busan incident, which spilled more than 53,000 gallons. But the impact of the 2009 spill was still significant. Tides carried the oil to Alameda and Bay Farm Islands, and destroyed habitats as far away as the Oakland Airport. In total, the California Department of Fish & Game counted 113 dead seabirds.
And because of further wildlife losses, local crab fishermen are now suing the Dubai Star owners for $10 million.