Cosco Busan faces over $61 million in Bay cleanup

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, Dec.21 -- The cost of cleaning up the San Francisco Bay oil spill is expected to reach $61 million and may rise even higher, according to Admiral Thad Allen, Commander of the US Coast Guard.

Allen told Congress that figure is significant because it's what the owner of the Cosco Busan is required to pay under federal law for spilling 58,000 gal of fuel after striking the Bay Bridge Nov. 7. However he said the costs likely will rise beyond that amount to cover costs of completing cleanup and restoring coastal areas hit by the spillage.

Those liability limits can be increased if the US Justice Department determines a spill was caused by gross negligence. Allen said the USCG is discussing an increase of those limits with the companies involved in the spill.

The Coast Guard said $54.7 million had been spent on cleanup as of Dec. 14, an average of about $770,000/day.

To recover their costs, federal, state, and local authorities have filed civil suits against the ship's owner, Regal Stone Ltd.; its insurer, Shipowners' Insurance & Guaranty; and the bar pilot who was at the helm, Capt. John Cota.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong-based Regal Stone said the company is already paying for private cleanup crews who have been skimming oil and cleaning beaches.

He said the firm will meet its legal responsibility, but declined to say if it would pay any bill exceeding the $61.8 million.

The Cosco Busan was allowed to leave San Francisco to sail to South Korea for repairs after its owners agreed to post a $79 million bond as a guarantee the firm would pay its share of the cleanup costs.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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