Report: Insurer meddled with oil cleanup efforts

Cleanup efforts after shipping fuel gushed into the Bay from a container ship last year were hampered by an insurer’s drive to push down costs and by a lack of equipment, according to a report released Monday.

More than 50,000 gallons of toxic fuel was released from the Cosco Busan’s hull after it rammed a Bay Bridge tower in heavy fog on Nov. 7.

Retired Coast Guard Rear Admiral Carlton Moore led a review of the first two weeks of the disaster, and he released his findings in a report Monday.

Auditors for the ship’s insurer distracted private cleanup teams hired by the insurer, disrupted their work, issued orders, and cited outdated procedures, according to Moore’s report. The insurer or auditor was not named, and Coast Guard spokesman Dave Oney told The Examiner that information was not available.

The insurer directed the auditor to oversee cleanup work based on what was “reasonable and necessary” — an “international financial standard” that is “inconsistent” with a state law that requires “best achievable” cleanup efforts, according to the report.

The report also noted that cleanup efforts were guided by a Coast Guard-led plan that relies on private cleanup companies and, after the spill, the companies were not able to provide enough equipment to protect the Bay’s environmentally sensitive areas from the Cosco Busan spill.

Additionally, the report noted that the Coast Guard’s plan prevented untrained volunteers from assisting with cleanup operations for safety reasons, resulting in hundreds or thousands of would-be volunteers being ordered not to clean oil that washed onto beaches, Moore told reporters Monday.

jupton@examiner.com

Among findings from a report on the response to Cosco Busan oil spill

» Coast Guard pollution investigators couldn’t speak with the ship’s Chinese crew or read its Chinese equipment; no translator was available.

» Untrained, inexperienced pollution investigators made poor judgments.

» A senior Department of Fish & Game officer noted at 9:45 a.m. that the reported size of the spill — as little as 140 gallons — was “unbelievable.” The Coast Guard waited until 9 p.m. to publicly revise its figure up to 58,000 gallons. The figure has since been revised to 54,000 gallons.

Source: Incident Specific Preparedness Review

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