Saturday, January 12, 2008

Near Misses

There are all these numbers I would like to see that do not exist. How many gallons of oil are being transported at any given time. How many boats, trains, trucks are carrying oil, and how much, at this very moment. How many gallons of oil spill a day all over the world. I think about these numbers sometimes -- their size a vast implication.

I never thought about near misses until this morning.

Oil Barge Strikes SF Bay Bridge in Fog

Published: January 11, 2008

SAN RAFAEL, Calif. (AP) -- A barge carrying oil struck a bridge in the San Francisco Bay, but there were no immediate reports of oil spilling into the bay, authorities said.

An article in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer attempted to track some near misses a few years ago, reporting:

About once a month, a large ship somewhere along the West Coast runs into trouble because of an equipment problem or mechanical failure, according to the Pacific States/British Columbia Oil Spill Task Force.

In Washington and Oregon, recent history is full of oil spills and incidents that could have resulted in a spill, according to state records.

In March, a cargo ship in Anchorage lost power for three hours and nearly ran aground carrying 450,000 gallons of fuel.

This latest fog-crash in San Francisco comes in the wake of several close calls in the two years since the Selendang Ayu spilled over 300,000 gallons of fuel in Unalaska Island’s Skan Bay, according to a press release by Pacific

In California, the Los Angeles/ Long Beach Harbor Safety Commission tracks near misses in the Bay Area.

A reportable ‘Near Miss’ is an incident in which a pilot, master or other person in charge of navigating a vessel, successfully takes action of a ‘non-routine nature’ to avoid a collision with another vessel, structure, or aid to navigation, or grounding of the vessel, or damage to the environment.

I don't know -- sometimes a near miss can help you think a little clearly about something you are doing that is dangerous -- not wearing a seat belt, carrying too many groceries, being impatient, tipsy, distracted, greedy... you get the adrenaline rush when you see clearly the horrific reality that almost was. A mess. An inconvenience. A tragedy.

But the idea that those worlds are traveling around us all the time -- not due to our own failings as human beings -- of heart and mind and luck -- but simply by the nature of the world we have constructed... kind of scary.

Keywords from the Norwegian Meteorological Institute:
Dynamic risk; Drift grounding; Oil spill; Prevention; Prioritisation; Decision support

Kind of marvelous, too. Here's another number that doesn't exist -- How many oil spills didn't happen yesterday?

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