The merry go-round of invective and blame circus has started up again in the wake of the Cosco Busan oil spill in San Francisco Bay in 2007. Fleet Management, the operator at the time, has been fined $10 million in a plea bargain.
For the eco-extremists and do-gooders, this is not enough. Uninformed comments hurled around news bulletin boards and even maritime websites have varied from the ludicrous to the idiotic. Some have even claimed the vessel was an oil tanker.
Emotion and personal prejudices have taken over from reason and sound legal precepts, according to maritime industry experts. The fate of pilot John Cota is seen as an example of this – an unintentional mistake that led to a prison term.
In fact, there is a growing feeling of nervousness among foreign seafarers when coming to the US and the San Francisco area especially. Speculation is that insurance premiums are being loaded and vessel masters are wanting extra bonuses, compared with most countries in the European Union.
No one disputes that a huge fine should have been levied, but an air of witch hunting and revenge has surrounded the whole Cosco Busan issue.
And there is complete bafflement over the criminal charges against Fleet Management for filing false documents with the authorities. What is most likely is that wrong interpretations were made of the staggering amount of form filling and disclosure requirements following such an incident. Foreign operators have no conception of the legal and bureaucratic hoops involved until they face a situation such as this.
Says the official statement:" A false berth-to-berth passage plan for the day of the crash was created after the incident at the direction of shore-side supervisors known as superintendents and with the knowledge of the ship's master. Additionally, a ship officer falsified the ship's official navigational chart to show fixes that were not actually recorded during the voyage. Other records including false passage planning checklists were also created after the fact."
It's a safe bet to say that other masters are unaware of all the bureaucratic junk that has to be waded through and often do not have the time.
A mythical curse is said to have been coined:"May your ship spill oil in San Francisco Bay."
The continuing vendetta and thirst for vengeance in the Cosco Busan saga is just another step in the process of costlier and more inefficient US maritime trade.