Monday, February 08, 2010

Cosco Busan and Me

This whole obsession started when my mom sent me a copy, well, emailed me a link to a pdf of the NTSB report on the 2007 Cosco Busan allision. For those who don't know, the Cosco Busan was a Hong Kong flagged container ship that allided with the Delta tower of the San Francisco - Oakland Bay Bridge in November of 2007. The ship's hull suffered a 200 foot long gash that pierced two fuel tanks and allowed 52,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil (known officially as IFO-380, and unofficially as bunker oil) to spill out into the San Francisco Bay.

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.



    DangerMouse said...

    Sweet blogging, dog. I had no idea how near and dear "things going wrong" was to you.

    Anonymous said...

    I was very close to someone who died in a marine accident. Though I've received this person's inheritance, I've never heard more than "half truth soundbites" about what might have gone wrong and I've never really thought it was possible to know until now. Somehow though the idea of knowing causes me to feel a little uneasy and because of this i can't really picture an interest in "things gone wrong" without the reeling sensation of being on a boat in windy weather.