Oil Tanker Owner to Pay $2 Million for San Francisco Bay Oil Spill that Occurred in 2009

Posted in California Maritime News,Maritime Accidents,Maritime Lawsuits on May 14, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. —  A settlement by South Harmony Shipping of Panama, owners of the oil tanker the Dubai Star, was filed in San Francisco County Superior Court on Tuesday, May 9, by the district attorneys of San Francisco and Alameda County in Northern California.

Photo shows the oil tanker Dubai Star, right, loading bunker fuel from the barge, center, at approximately 6:30 a.m. when an oil spill took place early Friday, Oct. 30, 2009. The accident was in San Francisco Bay about two miles south of the Bay Bridge. The other vessel, the Sebarok Spirit, left, was not involved. Photo Credit: Lance Iversen / The Chronicle

San Francisco District Attorney, George Gascón, told the media that the owners of the Dubai Star oil tanker had to pay $1.96 million for a 2009 oil spill in the San Francisco Bay that impacted more than 200 acres and killed some 100 seabirds.

About 75 percent of that cash, which will be divided among San Francisco, Oakland, and the California Department of Fish and Game, covers the cost of the damages, including restoring wildlife habitat and recreation areas. The rest of the sum will pay off civil penalties.

The DA’s complaint, which also included Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley, charged South Harmony Shipping of Panama with violating the Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act and the Fish & Game Code.

The ships problems began at about 6:00 a.m. when a fueling barge pulled up beside the Dubai Star to pump bunker oil into its tank. The ships were stationed 2 1/2 miles south of the Bay Bridge when at about 6:48 a.m. the vessel spilled 422 gallons of bunker fuel into the bay during refueling operations creating an oil slick that was at least 3 miles long and spreading .

Several observers said there was a long gap between the time the spill was first reported and the time booms were placed around the ship.

According to the DA’s complaint, a cascade of human and mechanical errors took place.

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 crew member turned the wheel that was supposed to close it. Another crew member 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 coated beaches in Alameda County and killed an estimated 186 birds.

Officials said most of the settlement money will be used to restore wildlife habitat and enhance public recreation.


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