Dubai Star Owners Settle Claims for $1.9 Million

     SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – The owners of a ship that spilled 422 gallons of bunker fuel into San Francisco Bay in October 2009 agreed to pay $1.9 million for the cost of responding to the accident plus penalties.
     The settlement reached on Tuesday ends a lawsuitfiled earlier the same day.
     The California Department of Fish and Game, which is a party to the agreement, found that more than 100 seabirds had been killed as a result, “including grebes, brown pelicans and coots,” the agreement says. In all, “over 200 acres of rocky intertidal, sandy beach, marsh/mudflat and eelgrass habitat from Alameda Point to the Oakland Airport” were affected.
     The East Bay Regional Park District, also a party to the agreement, had claimed that fuel contamination resulted in beach closures and missed opportunities for “recreational fishing and marina boating.”
     A permanent injunction will require the owners’ vessels to follow strict oil transfer procedures when in San Francisco Bay. Written loading plans, monitoring devices and heightened reporting requirements if a spill happens are all part of the deal.
     The Dubai Star’s captain waited nearly a half hour early one October morning in 2009 to notify government authorities of the accident, and when he did report to Vessel Traffic Services, he understated the severity of the spill by saying that there was a “little bit” of oil had spilled onto the “deck only,” and “nothing is going overboard,” according to the complaint filed earlier in the day by the district attorneys of Alameda County and the City and County of San Francisco.
     The settlement sum combines $1.5 million in natural resource damage assessments and response costs with $500,000 in civil penalties, all to be paid by Pioneer Ship Management Services and South Harmony Shipping, which are based in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
     San Francisco’s George Gascon had joined Alameda County’s Nancy O’Malley to prosecute the Dubai Star’s owners under Lempert-Keene-Seastrand Oil Spill Prevention and Response Act, as well as a Fish and Game statute.

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