Cosco Busan Pilot John Cota - San Francisco Bay

Carl Nolte of the San Francisco Chronicle writes:

According to a report released Thursday by the state pilot commission…

“There was unequivocally pilot error,” said Gary Gleason, an attorney for the state Board of Pilot Commissioners, which is appointed by the governor to regulate ship pilots in San Francisco, Suisun and San Pablo bays.

John Cota was in control of the 901- foot-long container ship Cosco Busan when it smashed into one of the towers of the Bay Bridge on Nov. 7. The crash caused a 220-foot long gash in the side of the ship and punctured the ship’s fuel tanks. More than 50,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil spilled out, fouling 26 miles of shoreline and killing more than 2,000 birds.

Gleason presented the report to the seven members of the commission and closed with a recording of Cota’s voice, made on the Cosco Busan just after the accident.

“Oh, yeah, it’s so foggy. I shouldn’t have gone,” the pilot said. “I’m not going to do well on this one.” As Cota spoke, the mournful sound of the ship’s fog signal was heard in the background.

Continue Reading…

You can find the full pilot commission report HERE.

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  • Reader

    http://www.pilotcommission.org/notices/press%20
    http://www.pilotcommission.org/notices/Cota%20I

    COSCO BUSAN Incident Review Committee Report
    “The Board of Pilot Commissioners today received a report of the investigation by its Incident Review Committee “IRC) of the accident on November 7, 2007 in which the M/V COSCO BUSAN, under the navigational control of Captain John Cota, a Board-licensed pilot, struck one of the towers of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, damaging the ship and releasing over 50,000 gallons of fuel oil into the waters of San Francisco Bay.”

  • Reader

    The previous links did not paste correctly.
    Go to the Pilot Commission Home page for the report

    “http://www.pilotcommission.org/home.shtml”

    A good link was also published as a gCaptain forum entry

    “http://gcaptain.com/maritime/forum/comments.php?DiscussionID=544″

  • Paul_D

    How short sighted (but predictable) … scapegoat John! Yes, there was pilot error – but there was also bridge team error, passage plan error, communication error, procedural error …. need I go on?

  • Paul Drouin

    Blaming one man for this accident is short sighted and wrong. Yes, there was pilot error – but there was also bridge team error – passage plan error – VTS error – procedural error – …. need I say more.

  • Anonymous

    How short sighted (but predictable) … scapegoat John! Yes there was pilot error – but there was also bridge team error, passage plan error, communication error, procedural error …. need I go on?

  • http://gcaptain.com John

    Paul,

    I agree, Cota's main error was in not recognizing the mess around him. The other errors can be summed up in the report statement:

    “Captain Cota was unaware that Captain Sun and his crew had only joined the vessel on Oct 24 (two weeks previously) when there was a change in the vessel's ownership.”.

    The most I have personally seen in a two week period was an 80% change of the marine dept and this was followed by the closest near-miss I have ever witnessed.

    It is hard enough for one individual to work with a new bridge team aboard an unfamiliar ship. It is criminal to have every member of the bridge team try to do this and the company official who made the decision should be on trial. In my opinion Captain Cota and Sun suffered from the less objectionable charge of cowardice for not walking off the vessel…. but how many captains have you seen walk away from an operation they knew was unsafe? It's a common problem in the industry as fear of loosing one's job seems to trump fear of an incident…. surprising to me considering the myriad of employment opportunities available to mariners today.

    I do, however, find it hard to dismiss the fact Cota completely forgot he had a tug alongside. This seems inexcusable.

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  • http://gcaptain.com gcaptain

    The following comment was submitted by John Denham via email:

    The findings of the IRC report are concurred in, essentially as presented ,and, based on the evidenciary material utilized. As a step, it removes the SFBP from any further action unless, as mentioned in a comment, “they are accountable for placing Cota in the role he played.” It must be shown they knew his condition. The Federal indictment includes some accusations that are not discussed in the IRC, by choice, My review of “reported”' data indicates Cota did demonstrate some proper conduct e.g., checking with dredge on status,but thereafter the data indicates a lack of proper conduct.Regretfully in almost a year nothing has changed; it can happen again. Ships, people, systems conditions are the same, as far as the public is concerned. No NTSB report, the USCG is in silent mode and the media only reports what they are told, and that is not much. Why did this happen remains unknown. JGD.

  • http://gcaptain.com gcaptain

    The following comment was submitted by John Denham via email:

    The findings of the IRC report are concurred in, essentially as presented ,and, based on the evidenciary material utilized. As a step, it removes the SFBP from any further action unless, as mentioned in a comment, “they are accountable for placing Cota in the role he played.” It must be shown they knew his condition. The Federal indictment includes some accusations that are not discussed in the IRC, by choice, My review of “reported”' data indicates Cota did demonstrate some proper conduct e.g., checking with dredge on status,but thereafter the data indicates a lack of proper conduct.Regretfully in almost a year nothing has changed; it can happen again. Ships, people, systems conditions are the same, as far as the public is concerned. No NTSB report, the USCG is in silent mode and the media only reports what they are told, and that is not much. Why did this happen remains unknown. JGD.

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