Dockworkers sickened during Oakland port fuel transfer
Fumes released during a fuel transfer to a container vessel at the Port of Oakland Thursday resulted in 13 dockworkers being transported to local hospitals with what local fire officials described as 'minor symptoms.'
The incident occurred during an early morning 'bunker fuel' transfer between the Maersk vessel Buffalo, just arrived from Los Angeles, and a fuel barge. The workers, aboard the Buffalo, began suffering from stomach cramps, vomiting and diarrhea.
While Maersk vessels burn a low-sulfur, cleaner-burning fuel within 24-miles of the port, the vessels must fill up with 'bunker fuel' for the rest of their voyage. The lower-grade 'bunker fuel' used in the ships has been related to health problems in cases of long-term exposure. John Castanho of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union told the San Francisco Chronicle that the union has been working for the installation of fueling vapor-recovery devices on the fueling barges that would eliminate the problem of worker exposure to fuel fumes.