Cosco Busan crew detained after oil spill off San Francisco

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 12 -- US authorities have detained the all-Chinese crew of the Cosco Busan, a containership that spilled some 58,000 gal of heavy bunker oil into San Francisco Bay after it rammed a section of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge last week.

The Cosco Busan's entire crew is being detained aboard the ship for questioning, according to Capt. William Uberti, head of the US Coast Guard for Northern California. The ship was departing from the Port of Oakland for South Korea when the accident occurred.

The crew's detention came after Uberti notified the US attorney's office on Nov. 10 about issues involving management and communication among members of the bridge crew: the helmsman, the watch officer, the ship's master, and the pilot.

After ruling out mechanical failures as a cause of the accident, investigators were reportedly focusing on possible communication problems between the ship's crew, the pilot guiding the vessel, and the Vessel Traffic Service, the USCG station that monitors the bay's shipping traffic.

The accident left a gash nearly 100 ft long on the side of the 926-ft vessel and ruptured two of its fuel tanks. Spillage from the ship's oil tanks has killed dozens of sea birds and spurred the closure of nearly two dozen beaches and piers.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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