: views from the Hill

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Tugs and why we need them

We have a birds-eye view of the Bay ship traffic. We can see the Vessel Traffic Service building over on Yerba Buena Island, from which the Coast Guard tracks all ship traffic moving through the Bay, except for sailboats, motorboats, and fishing vessels. We watch tugs escorting some ships in. We watch ships that come in without tugs. Tankers carrying oil products require tug escort. Other tankers don't.

Every once in a while, someone sends a bill in that would require tug escort on more types of ship cargo than are currently covered. Cargo not currently covered include the likes of "explosives, pesticides, acids, pressurized gas and other hazardous materials."

Two years ago, State Sen. Byron Sher, D-San Jose, introduced SB 1480, which would have added to the list of cargos that required a tug escort. Schwarzenegger vetoed the bill in September 2004, stating,"Protecting public safety and the environment from a potential spill of hazardous materials is of paramount importance. California must do all it can to minimize the possibility of such a disaster. However, there are neither ship design issues nor a pattern of problems suggesting these vessels need tugboat escorts."

... except, of course, for those troubling near misses that have been happening over the years.

The environmentalists and folks afraid of ship accidents want the tug escorts. The folks paying up to $8K per escort would rather not, if there's no real risk.

While searching around for a link to information on the near disaster in March 1995, when the Mundogas Europe lost its steering control as it was coming through the Golden Gate, I found this article from the SF Weekly on the Web.

Well done, Ellen McGarrahan.

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