Track the path of San Francisco oil spill tanker

Watch the movements of the Cosco Busan, the tanker ship that crashed into the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and spilled tens of thousands of gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay.

coscobusan_path provides animations of ship and boat traffic in San Francisco Bay. This is always an interesting and useful service usually provided in real time, but they’ve very astutely responded to the interest in the San Francisco Bay oil spill by providing an animation of the path of the tanker that hit the bridge.

In the image above, the Bay Bridge is the line that goes diagonally from San Francisco on the bottom left to the East Bay on the top right, intersected by Yerba Buena Island. the port of Oakland is on the right. You can see the Cosco Busan — the tanker ship responsible for the Nov. 7 oil spill — as a small red arrow next to the bridge. It’s just about to hit the bridge’s protective bumper. The blue arrow next to the Cosco Busan is the tug Revolution.

Here’s what has to say about their animation of the path of the Cosco Busan the morning of Nov. 7:

You can see that the ship was traveling at an acute angle to the bridge and then turned sharply, directly into the center tower of the bridge. (The towers are highlighted with red dots to make them more visible.)

No cleanup ships show up in our AIS records. It is not clear whether they arrived later, did not have their AIS transponders on, or if for some reason our receiver did not detect their signals. (Coast Guard ships generally do not turn on their AIS transponders, so they do not show up.)

Disclaimer: This information was received by our AIS receiver in Tiburon and the signal was processed by our custom software. We make no representation as to its accuracy. Positions are approximate. We do not have time stamps for this track.

So, the animation isn’t going to provide legal evidence of what vessels were where and when, but it will give the average person a better idea of what happened that morning. Note that boats and ships are not represented in accurate scale in relation to each other or to the fixed objects in and around the bay.

One of the things that interests me about this animation is the proximity of the tugboat Revolution to the Cosco Busan (presuming, despite’s disclaimer, that the blue arrow really is the Revolution). The pilot on board the Cosco Busan has received a lot of attention in the past few days, from investigators and from the media, but as far as I can tell no one has written anything in any newspaper or blog about the Revolution. What was it doing just before and after the Cosco Busan’s crash? Why was it with the cargo ship? What did its crew see? Even if the crew of the Revolution had known that the Cosco Busan was off course, could they have done anything about it? I’m not suggesting that the Revolution’s crew bears any responsibility for the crash, but it certainly does appear that they were in a better position than anyone on the bay that morning (except the people on board the Cosco Busan) to provide information about what actually happened.

Click here to view the animation of the Cosco Busan’s path. The animation will load and start automatically.

The images presented with this post are the property of It’s really a very interesting site, so do check it out.


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2 Responses to Track the path of San Francisco oil spill tanker

  1. […] Track the path of San Francisco oil spill tanker […]

  2. […] Busan pilot to get trial date The pilot of the Cosco Busan is set to receive a date April 4 for his trial on federal charges related to the crash of the cargo […]

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