Clean-up expands for San Francisco Bay oil spill

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Clean-up efforts for a 58,000-gallon (220,000-liter) oil spill in San Francisco Bay expanded on Sunday as federal officials assessed damage that has closed beaches, threatened the crabbing season and killed scores of birds.

“This is an incident which, in my view, should not have happened,” said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a former San Francisco mayor, at a news conference after touring the affected areas.

“I think we can improve the system to manage shipping traffic in and out, in all kinds of weather conditions.”

The Cosco Busan container ship struck a tower of the Bay Bridge on Wednesday in fog, slashing a nearly 100 foot gash that allowed bunker fuel to spill.

The Coast Guard ruled out mechanical error as the cause of the area’s worst spill in nearly two decades.

“Based on the Coast Guard’s preliminary investigation, there appears there was nothing mechanically wrong with the vessel,” said Petty Officer Mariana O’Leary, who stopped short of saying human error was responsible.

She declined to comment on whether communication failures had contributed to the crash, as local media have reported.

The National Transportation Safety Board is launching an investigation into the cause of the spill.

The Coast Guard said nearly 60 ships and 800 workers were now involved in cleanup efforts, which have recovered some 12,200 gallons of oil so far. The spill has killed 171 birds, while another 372 have been recovered.

“Oil in the water is a bad thing and the key is getting the oil out and getting it off the beach so animal and wildlife won’t be impacted,” Coast Guard Adm. Craig Bone said at a press conference.

Bay area fishermen have asked California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to postpone the local crabbing season.

The Governor has toured the bay area and declared the spill a state of emergency.

Writing by Dana Ford, editing by Todd Eastham