Maritime Crime on Estuary Increasing

Maritime Crime on Estuary Increasing

The Oakland Estuary is in a state of crisis, the worst I’ve seen over the past decade. This is not an exaggeration.

Over the past several weeks boats have been stolen from the Encinal Yacht Club, the Grand Marina, the Marine Village Yacht Club, the Golden Gate Yacht Club, and the Alameda Community Sailing Center. The Outboard Motor Shop had a client’s boat broken into while at their dock for service. Boats have been stolen from the Oakland Marinas and Embarcadero Cove. Marina residents have been terrorized by pirates coming into their marinas late at night scoping out potential targets.

On Aug. 17, the Oakland Police Department (OPD) did arrest one of these estuary pirates from the anchor-out compound off Union Point Park. He was charged with possession of stolen property, an outboard motor. He has now been released from custody. It remains to be seen whether he is ultimately prosecuted by the Alameda County District Attorney.

Since December multiple derelict boats have sunk and are simply abandoned leaving the cost of salvage and removal to the public.

The problem of waiting to remove these illegal anchor-outs until they have sunk is that it becomes far more expensive and more quickly depletes limited funding.

I do want to acknowledge the work that has been done over the past several months by the OPD Marine Patrol Unit. The guest docks at Jack London Square have been cleared of derelicts, although one, which has been there for more than a year, remains trespassing on the Oakland Marinas docks.

All derelict trespassers have also been removed from the Hadal docks further down the estuary. And at least four abandoned derelicts have been removed from the estuary and pulled up into the parking lot at the Jack London Aquatic Center awaiting final disposal.

And yet, the Oakland waterfront remains seriously impacted by many other illegal anchor-outs. I am certain the OPD marine patrol unit would effectively deal with these illegal anchor-out vessels if they were provided with the necessary support from the City of Oakland.

The city’s annual budget is $2.12 billion. The annual budget for the Port of Oakland, the fourth largest port on the west coast situated on the Oakland Estuary is $558 million. Additionally, this year the Port received a $119 million grant from the State of California for infrastructure improvements.

Are we to believe that there is no funding available to protect the Oakland Estuary and waterfront? This problem cannot continue to be deferred. It must be made a priority.

Brock de Lappe submitted this editorial before the San Francisco Bay Conservation and Development Commission meeting on Aug. 23.