Hinterland Green

Sunday, July 19, 2009

John Cota, Helmsman of Cosco Busan Cargo Ship, Sentenced to 10 Months for Oil Spill in San Francisco Bay

John Cota, the helmsman for Cosco Busan cargo ship, was sentenced to 10 months in prison for an oil spill in the San Francisco Bay. Cota pleaded guilty in March to two misdemeanor environmental crimes of illegally discharging oil in the bay and killing thousands of birds. He apologized to the court and to the "people of the Bay Area for the damage I have caused."

The Nov. 7, 2007, oil spill poured more than 53,000 gallons of oil into the water after the 901-foot Cosco Busan struck a tower of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge in heavy fog. The spill killed 2,000 birds, fouled dozens of miles of coastline and cost commercial fishermen millions of dollars in lost revenue. His attorney said that a poorly trained Chinese crew, language barriers and others factors beyond Cota's control contributed to the accident.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston said Cota was hired to guide the ship out of the San Francisco Bay because of his extensive knowledge of the region and should have known where the bridge was located. The judge also agreed with prosecutors that Cota made several disastrously poor decisions while piloting the ship.

Authorities have said he shouldn't have departed in extreme fog when pilots of six other large vessels decided not to, failed to have a discussion with the ship's master to review the transit plan and failed to notify the Coast Guard that the ship's radar was unreliable.

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