NOAA Responds to San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge Oil Spill

November 8, 2007

Container ship M/V Cosco Busan with a gash on its side after colliding with the San Francisco Bay Bridge.
Container ship M/V Cosco Busan with a gash on its side after colliding with the San Francisco Bay Bridge.

+ High Resolution (Credit: U.S. Coast Guard)

NOAA organizations are on scene in San Francisco aiding in the response to the estimated 58,000 gallons of intermediate fuel oil spilled yesterday morning when the container ship M/V Cosco Busan struck the Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco Bay.

NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration is providing trajectory predictions to the Unified Command, which is led by the U.S. Coast Guard and includes NOAA, along with the U.S. Department of Interior and the State of California's Fish and Game Office of Oil Spill Prevention and Response, as co-trustees for marine and coastal waters. A representative of the shipping company has joined them in directing the incident response.

NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration provided trajectory predictions to the Unified Command throughout the day yesterday. Last night, the NOAA Scientific Support Coordinator (SSC) for California arrived on scene to support the response from the Incident Command Center and four additional members of the NOAA Hazmat Response Team are expected on scene today.

NOAA's National Weather Service Marine Forecasters are providing spot weather support including wind forecasts which are being incorporated into the spill trajectory models. Winds and currents yesterday and today are moving the oil throughout the central portion of San Francisco Bay and along the outer coast in the vicinity of the Golden Gate. This information will be updated continuously throughout the coming days and integrated into both trajectory predictions and planning of response operations.

NOAA National Marine Sanctuary Program staff and Beach Watch volunteers are currently participating in wildlife surveys both north and south of the Golden Gate in an effort to assess the spills impacts on the areas marine and bird life as well as rescue any oiled animals if necessary. The public is asked to report any injured and/or oiled wildlife and not to approach or handle as there may be safety concerns.  The Distressed Wildlife Hotline number is 985-781-0804.

Other NOAA assets include NOAA Fisheries Protected Resources Division which is responsible for conservation and management native and migratory marine mammals and endangered species and the NOAA Marine Debris Program, which seeks to mitigate marine pollution impacts. Fisheries personnel have reported to the Incident Command Center to provide information to the Incident Commander on potentially affected marine species, especially those protected under the Endangered Species Act, like green sturgeon. The stranding coordinator is actively engaged with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network in the event any marine mammals need rehabilitation or rescue. Personnel from the Restoration Center are on scene evaluating effects to eel grasses, oyster beds and potential impacts to threatened coho salmon and steelhead along the Marin headlands.

In August, 2006 NOAA led a San Francisco based multi-agency federal, state, regional and local oil spill drill called "Safe Seas." The drill was designed to help the participants improve their ability to use a broad range of scientific capabilities, technologies and skills to reduce harm to the marine and coastal resources when an incident occurs. Among the capabilities tested in that drill was the delivery of data, observations, forecasts and expertise from public and private resources. Many of those same organizations are involved in this response.

NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration protects the public’s natural resources, responds to hazardous material releases, and restores injured and contaminated marine and coastal environments. The NOAA Emergency Response Division consists of an interdisciplinary scientific team that responds to oil and chemical spills in U.S. waters and helps the On-Scene Coordinator make timely operational decisions. NOAA's Scientific Support Coordinators, located around the country, lead the team at spills, drawing on the team's spill trajectory estimates, chemical hazards analyses, and assessments of the sensitivity of biological and human-use resources.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.