Sunday, July 19, 2009

Negligent Pilot jailed by Californian Court

Environmental law used to convict in Cosco Busan collision
Shipping News Feature

CALIFORNIA - John Joseph Cota, the licensed Californian bar pilot, who steered the Cosco Busan into the San Francisco bridge in November 2007, has been sentenced to ten months in jail for his negligence.

Joseph P. Russoniello, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, made a statement following the conviction that the "The court's sentence of John Cota should serve as a deterrent to shipping companies and mariners who think violating the environmental laws that protect our nation's waterways will go undetected or unpunished."

The prosecution made the case that the pilots performance was inexcusable for a trained professional. He had they said “taken the vessel out in fog so thick it was difficult to see as far as the bow of the vessel from the bridge” and that he appeared unfamiliar with the automatic chart system with which the vessel was equipped. The “visibility was reduced to 0.1 nautical miles, the ships radar pictures deteriorated to the point that the pilot lost confidence in them, and he lost situational awareness although he had the means to do so”

The CWA statute (Clean Water Act) under which the prosecution was made, was introduced following the Exxon Valdez disaster of 1989. It was used in this case as the damage caused to the bridge was negligible but the environmental clean up and the closure of the San Francisco bay fisheries which resulted from the collision has been estimated to cost over $70 million. The release of oil from the stricken vessel also resulted in the death of over 2000 birds in the Bay.