From the Department of Been There Done That:
In recent years, Coast Guard staff and institutional emphasis have been shifted more toward port and coastal protection duties than marine safety and environmental response. Meanwhile, important equipment used in spill response has aged, insiders say, and training drills — routine in the years after the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska — are fewer and farther between.
Last March, the Coast Guard disbanded its department that helped set up those oil-spill response exercises and reassigned more than a dozen people to homeland security duties.
Jim Goldstein has some photos from around the Bay Area. For those of you not in the know (I haven’t seen much about the spill in the media myself), a tanker spilled 58,000 gallons (!) of heavy bunker fuel oil last Wednesday, after running into a Bay Bridge pylon ((Following this Chronicle link, check the sidebar for their thorough coverage of the spill)):
Oil began leaking into the water after the Cosco Busan, an 810-foot container ship that weighs 65,131 tons, crashed into a tower of the Bay Bridge’s western span in heavy fog at about 8:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Within an hour, six emergency vessels from the Coast Guard and Marine Spill Response Corp. were on the scene, officials said. Yet even by 4 p.m. Wednesday, officials apparently believed only 140 gallons of oil had leaked into the water.
Of course, there’s that bit about the Coast Guard response from the LA Times:
In reshaping its focus after 9/11, critics say, the Coast Guard has let its relationships with port users, shippers and fishermen deteriorate. That is because marine safety and environmental response strategies require close cooperation. Anti-terrorism tactics, however, tend to be secretive and rigid.
“It’s changed big-time, in the sense everything now is focused on the war on terror,” said Zeke Grader, president of the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Assns. A decade ago, Bay Area fishermen were counted on by the Coast Guard to help mop up oil spills. Dozens of fishing boats and anglers were certified to deal with spills, Grader said. “It was like a volunteer fire department kind of thing.”
But officials let the program lapse, he said. And when the fishermen approached the Coast Guard to help, they were told not to bother, said Larry Collins, president of the San Francisco Crab Boat Owners Assn.
Disaster response under the Bush Administration, folks.