By Alison Bate

It looks like a primitive computer game, but this real-time ship tracking system on the website shows the containership Cosco Busan hitting the Bay Bridge in San Francisco Bay last November.

The ship, leaving its berth in Oakland in heavy fog with the required pilot on board, is shown as a bright red arrow in the right of the animation. Its tug is shown as the blue arrow trailing in its wake of the containership. After hitting the bridge span, the ship anchors, and the tug scurries away.

More than 53,000 gallons of bunker fuel spilled into the Bay, killing at least 1,800 birds, oiling another 1,000, and triggering enormous clean-up costs.

U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Jonathan Cilley
U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer Jonathan Cilley

The ship left port on Dec.20, 2007, as this U.S. Coast Guard picture shows, but the repercussions still continue, the 2008 Pacific States/B.C. Oil Spill Task Force heard in Victoria, Canada on Sept. 18.

A barrage of bills in the wake of the spill last year is now in political limbo. California lawmakers were highly critical over the spill response and passed a series of bills to address the problems. But now an impasse between the state’s Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Democratic-controlled legislature has put the bills in limbo.

The state budget was due to be set on July 1, but still hasn’t been decided. In retaliation, the governor vowed to veto all 800-plus bills under consideration – including the oilspill bills – unless lawmakers first approve a state budget by Sept.30.

“We’re all putting on our helmets and waiting to see what happens. It’s going to be very interesting,” said Steve Edinger, acting administrator of California’s Office of Spill Prevention and Response.

Other developments:

* Legislation has also been introduced at the federal level to make ships safer and assess and improve vessel tracking procedures.

* Around 14 investigations have been launched into the incident, including a key review by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, due to be released in early January.

* Fleet Management has offered to plead no contest to charges of negligence and falsifying documents related to the spill. A judge has refused to accept the offer. The company was indicted by a federal grand jury and charged by the US Justice Department in July.

* Capt. John Cota, the pilot navigating the Cosco Busan at the time, also faces several criminal charges in connection with the spill.