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COSCO BUSAN Allowed to Leave Port Following Posting of Multi-million Dollar Bond
The owners of the M/V COSCO BUSAN have posted a $79.5 million surety bond and will have the ship returned to Korea. The bond, posted with the U.S. Government earlier this week, represents the value of the vessel and not a cap on any damages that can be recovered for the impacts of fuel oil the vessel spilled into the San Francisco Bay Nov. 7.
"Our investigation into the incident continues and will not be impeded by the vessel leaving the area," said Acting Director John McCamman of the Department of Fish and Game (DFG). "While there is no basis for the state to retain the ship, we have the full support of Gov. Schwarzenegger in determining the cause of this tragic incident and holding the responsible party accountable for the short- and long-term damages to the wildlife and habitat resources impacted by the spill."
The Governor directed DFG and its Office of Spill Prevention and Response to conduct an aggressive investigation in coordination with the Governor's Office of Emergency Services to determine the cause of the incident and review the state's preparedness and response procedures. The state is also cooperating with federal investigations of the incident. The investigations will consider both civil and criminal liabilities of the responsible party.
The State of California requires all non-tank vessels entering its' waters to have a $300 million insurance policy, and the COSCO BUSAN has met this requirement. California is the only state in the country to require coverage for a non-tank vessel. The state's liability standards for tank vessels are also the highest in the nation.
The vessel has been verified by the U.S Coast Guard to be sea-worthy following repairs made while it was berthed in San Francisco. Additional work on the vessel is possible following its departure. The vessel will be required to be re-verified before reentering U.S. waters.
The M/V COSCO BUSAN hit a Bay Bridge support tower while exiting the Bay causing a gash more than 100 feet long over the ship's fuel tanks and the immediate release of approximately 58,000 gallons of oil.
A joint state, federal and local area cleanup operation quickly ensued and has resulted in the recovery of a significant portion of recoverable oil and retrieval of approximately 1,100 live oiled birds. More than 390 of the injured birds have been rehabilitated and released back into the wild.
Representatives of the vessel owners, Regal Stone Ltd., are also heavily involved in the cleanup operation. "We require the responsible party to be actively involved in the cleanup of discharged oil," said DFG Assistant Chief Steve Edinger. "With the expertise and oversight of the DFG and the U.S. Coast Guard, and the specialized and extensive resources secured by the responsible party, cleanup operations for this spill are progressing as expected."
According to Edinger, the five-week operation will soon transition into a monitoring and assessment stage. "We have recovered almost all the oil and oiled product that can be safely removed without causing further damage to the environment," Edinger said. "We have begun the process to determine long-term restoration needs, and we are committed along with our federal, state and local partners in doing everything possible to restore the area's vital fish and wildlife resources."
The majority of beaches closed due to the spill have reopened and many more are expected to reopen in the coming weeks. Some residual oil in inaccessible pockets and surfacing tarballs may be visible for some time as will stains on hard surfaces.
"It's important for area residents to know our efforts continue even when cleanup crews are no longer on site," said Lisa Curtis, Administrator of the DFG's Office of Spill Prevention and Response. "Anyone who has experienced the majesty of the San Francisco Bay Area's landscapes would be hard-pressed to place a monetary value on them. However, we have expert scientists and economists who will be assessing the impacts to the natural resources and communities affected by this spill in order to recover compensatory damages and support current and future restoration activities."
Costs for the cleanup and restoration are the responsibility of the ship's owners, including reimbursement for costs incurred by participating local, state and federal agencies.
Laws governing oil spills in California waters allow claims for damages to be made directly to the responsible party's representatives without the need for formal litigation. Claims can be made by calling 1-866-442-9650.
Additional information on the cleanup operation can be found at www.coscobusanincident.com.
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