Coast Guard Investigating its Response to Cosco Busan Oil Spill

WASHINGTON – U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Thad Allen hasĀ  announced that the Coast Guard has begun a comprehensive review of its response to the Cosco Busan oil spill in San Francisco Bay after the ship allided with the San Francisco Bay Bridge Nov. 7.

At the direction of the Commandant, the Coast Guard’s Chief of Staff chartered an incident specific preparedness review (ISPR) today that includes membership of federal, local, state, and industry stakeholders. The review will examine the implementation and effectiveness of the interagency area contingency plan – which guides how San Francisco Bay-area stakeholders respond to an oil or hazardous material spill — and its integration with other applicable contingency plans at the federal, state, and local levels. The review will also carefully evaluate the effectiveness of the Coast Guard’s oil spill response and communications efforts with key federal, state, local and industry partners.

“We have a great duty and responsibility to the people of the San Francisco Bay area, the state of California, and ourselves to conduct a comprehensive, high level assessment of our performance in the critical hours after the Cosco Busan dumped thousands of gallons of oil into the Bay,” said Allen. “While we would not normally initiate an ISPR review during the course of an ongoing cleanup operation, I have determined that due to the severity of this incident and the potential benefits in identifying areas to improve response coordination and communication in the future, it is imperative that we get this review underway as quickly as possible. This action underscores the commitment I have made to Secretary Chertoff, Governor Schwarzenegger and our congressional leadership. We will not rest until we know what happened, why it happened, and what we can do to improve preparedness and response in the future.”

“The ISPR is not intended to duplicate other ongoing investigations,” said Coast Guard Chief of Staff Vice Adm. Robert Papp. The primary purpose is to provide a timely, detailed, and comprehensive accounting of how we responded to this spill with our local partners. I directed the members to provide me an initial report within 90 days.”

The ISPR is intended to serve as a fact finding body to identify strengths and weaknesses of the area contingency plan, regional contingency plan, and overall preparedness system in effect at the time of the incident. Its findings may inform actions by the Coast Guard and others to produce positive, effective preparedness improvements that will benefit the San Francisco Bay region, as well as other regions of the country.

“I am committed to ensuring this review is done in the most timely and transparent manner possible and will make it available publicly upon its completion,” Allen said. “Everyone potentially impacted by this environmental crisis – from the fishermen, to the families in the Bay area, to the environmental preservationists that enjoy and rely on this pristine ecosystem — deserve answers to their questions. We understand the impact of this tragedy and assume the burden of finding those answers and making them known.”

Members of the Cosco Busan ISPR review will include representatives from:

* The City of San Francisco
* California Office of Emergency Services
* Pacific States – British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force
* Pacific Merchant Shipping Association
* National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
* U.S. Coast Guard (Chairman)

The review will include assistance of other federal, state, local or industry stakeholders as necessary to help inform the members, including established coalitions who can represent the interests of environmental groups.

This review is in addition to several other ongoing or potential investigations, including:

  • A National Transportation Safety Board investigation into the cause of the marine transportation system accident resulting in the allision, including the performance of the master, pilot and crew as well as the operation and maintenance of equipment and navigation systems.
  • A Coast Guard marine casualty investigation into potential civil and criminal violations of several federal, state and local statutes regarding the discharge of oil into state waters.

In addition to public release, the results of the ISPR review will be made available to the NTSB, marine casualty investigators, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for San Francisco in support of any ongoing or potential investigations. In addition to other sources of information, the ISPR members may obtain and consider any information made available to them by the NTSB, marine casualty investigation, or any other investigation.

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