NTSB reports on COSCO Busan accident
The National Transportation Safety Board said a medically unfit pilot, an ineffective master and poor communications between the two were the cause of an accident in which the COSCO Busan containership spilled thousands of gallons of fuel oil into the San Francisco Bay after striking a bridge support tower.
“How a man who was taking a half-dozen impairing prescription medications got to stand on the bridge of a 68,000-ton ship and give directions to guide the vessel through a foggy bay and under a busy highway bridge, is very troubling, and raises a great many questions about the adequacy of the medical oversight system for mariners,” said Acting Chairman Mark V. Rosenker.
The accident happened about 8 a.m., Nov. 7, 2007, in heavy fog with visibility of less than a quarter-mile. The 901-foot-long containership had left its berth in the Port of Oakland destined for South Korea when it struck the fendering system at the base of one of the towers of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
The accident resulted in a 212-foot-long gash in the ship’s forward port side and breached two fuel tanks and a ballast tank and 53,000 gallons of fuel oil were released into the bay, contaminating about 26 miles of shoreline and killing more than 2,500 birds of about 50 species. Total monetary damages were about $73.5 million, $70 million of which was for environmental cleanup.
In its determination of probable cause, the safety board cited:
' The pilot’s degraded cognitive performance due to his use of impairing prescription medications.
' Lack of a comprehensive pre-departure master/pilot exchange and a lack of effective communication between the pilot and the master during the short voyage.
' The master’s ineffective oversight of the pilot’s performance and the vessel’s progress.
A press release, synopsis of its report and animations of the accident can be found here.