At the time of the spill I was working in San Francisco as a deckhand for a passenger ferry and tour boat company. The actual week of the accident I was attending a linguistics conference in Mexico, but my coworkers on the Oakland-Alameda Ferry Encinal were some of the first to report the extent of the fuel in the water.
When I got back to town, there was a lot of talk in SF about what had happened, who was at fault, etc. A lot of people were ready to blame the pilot, some felt that the shipping management company should shoulder the responsibility. When I got my hands on the NTSB report, it was a relief to finally get a full, well researched investigation into what happened. The transcripts were there, the timelines, the drug test results. Nothing was summarized into half-true sound bites for the local news.
I was impressed. The report didn't set out to crucify anyone. It looked at a lot of different angles, it was intelligent, thorough, and obviously written by people with deep experience in the maritime world. Maybe I shouldn't have been so surprised, maybe this seems obvious to some people. But to me, it was a revelation to find a government agency looking for genuine answers, and looking for them outside of a blaming or criminalizing framework.
Hey, I'm sure the NTSB has its political struggles, but in this report I saw a glimmer of a agency that might actually be true to its mission. And not only that, but true to a mission that I find profoundly interesting. Marine safety and marine accident investigation are near and dear to me. Not just as a maritime professional, but also as someone who wants to know how things go wrong, and why.
- NTSB Report on the Cosco Busan Allision
- USCG Report of Investigation into Cosco Busan Allision
- BoatingSF Animantion of Cosco Busan Allision (using AIS data)
- Inviting Disaster: Lessons from the edge of technology by James Chiles