Organizations should collaborate to improve oil spill problems

Harriet Miranda

About three weeks ago a container ship crashed into the San Francisco Bay Bridge, spilling 58,000 gallons of oil into the water. Reports by different news organizations have claimed that there was a mishandling of the situation, that a “lapse in communication” on the part of the Coast Guard is to blame for the untimely response of the oil spill that shut down fishing, leisure activities and altogether interrupted marine life in the area.

It is unfortunate that there were four hours lost in assessing the situation, since the ship’s owner said the initial loss of oil was only 140 gallons, by the time authorities were notified the spill amounted to upwards of 50,000 gallons. It is unbelievable that such a gross disregard to properly report the accident has cost the lives of dozens of innocent animals and those whose habitats have been destroyed because of the spill.

According to the pilot, the captain of the vessel drove the 900-foot-long ship straight into a bridge tower after the radars failed. To make matters even worse, after the incident the crew refused to comply with the National Transportation Safety Board in answering questions for an investigation of the incident.

As if they didn’t realize how bad the spill was, the crew had the audacity to not answer questions that would help shed light on the situation. The crew’s familiarity with the ship was also questioned since it was their first trip.

It is understandable that everyone involved would be concerned in covering their reputation, but isn’t it their responsibility to try to do what is right? There is a lot more at stake here than just the reputations of a few nobodies; the immense impact of their irresponsibility has hurt far more animals, businesses and people than they can imagine.

Though it will be hard to tell for a while what the gravity of the loss of marine and bird life is in the area, I would hope that when the total numbers do come in, those responsible will see to it to ensure the public this won’t happen again. In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle last Tuesday, the figures show about 20,000 birds that are dead as a result of the disaster. The heavy amount of oil has made efforts to disinfect and clean the local beaches almost unfruitful. The constantly moving tide and winds have spread the contamination to surrounding beaches, endangering all kinds of animals.

This incident could have been much worse on a bigger scale, if it would have affected the structure of the bridge. This isn’t to minimize the immensity of this accident, but more to have the public question the standard of competence of a ship’s crew in being able to handle a serious situation. They can’t go around blaming the weather, because when it comes down to it, the only ones that can be held accountable are humans.

Though volunteer efforts have been going on to help clean up the spill, the ultimate gratification will come when those who are responsible are held accountable for their mistakes. This isn’t just a case of a small human error, punitive damages should be paid to the city for affecting its economy, and also general damages for affecting the wildlife and all other costs associated with the spill.

There should be a collaboration between the National Transportation Safety Board, the Coast Guard and any other authority involved in marine activities to make sure there are higher standards of safety so something of this magnitude won’t be repeated. In this day and age we have the proper technology for prevention of such disasters, they shouldn’t accept any other answer as an excuse.