Oakland joins SF in lawsuit over Busan oil spill
City of Oakland officials decided Tuesday to join the city of San Francisco in a lawsuit against the owners and operators of the COSCO Busan that struck a Bay Area bridge in November and spilled 50,000 gallons of diesel fuel into San Francisco Bay.
The lawsuit, filed by San Francisco in the local superior court, seeks to recoup loses resulting from the oil spill from the Busan's owner, Regal Stone Ltd. of Hong Kong; the vessel's lessee, Hanjin Shipping Co. Ltd. of South Korea; and vessel operators Fleet Management Ltd. and Synergy Maritime Ltd.
The suit, which also named the local Bay Area pilot that was on the bridge at the time of the accident, is seeking damages that could potentially rise to millions of dollars.
The Oakland City Council approved joining the lawsuit, which had been requested by San Francisco's attorney in the suit, but council members decided to only ask for the $26,000 Oakland incurred in responding and investigating the oil spill. The attorney handling the suit for San Francisco will also represent Oakland in the action, meaning Oakland is unlikely to incur any legal costs in the case.
The spill occurred when the 900-foot-long Busan sideswiped a footing tower of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in heavy fog on the morning of Nov. 7, rending a 160-foot-long gash in the side of the container vessel. The gash tore open fuel tanks in the hull of the Busan spilling more than 53,000 gallons of heavy bunker fuel into the bay. The fuel oil eventually fouled dozen of Bay Area beaches, killed thousands of birds and seriously postponed the local crab-fishing season.
Several Superior Court and federal court suits, seeking unnamed damages, have also been filed against theBusan owners and operators by impacted local fishermen and fishing boat owners. The federal government has also filed suit against the vessel's parties over damage caused by the incident to navigable waters, federal beaches and marine sanctuaries.