Cosco Busan pilot boat captain pleads guilty

The Cosco Busan pilot boat captain has finally pleaded guilty this week to federal water pollution charges in an plea agreement that will force him to serve up to 10 months in prison.

Capt. John Cota, admitted that he made serious mistakes in piloting the Cosco Busan container ship through heavy fog Nov. 7, 2007. The 900 foot ship struck the San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge spilling 53,000 gallons of its bunker crude oil.

Cota has also admitted to not telling authorities that he was using prescription drugs when he renewed his maritime pilot’s licenses in 2006 and 2007.

The guilty plea “is a reminder that the Cosco Busan crash was not just an accident, but a criminal act,” Justice Department official John Cruden said in a statement. “This is not a case involving a mere mistake.”

Cota’s defense attorney, isn’t buying all the charges and says: “An incompetent, untrained crew and mistakes by the Coast Guard” contributed heavily to the accident.

The spill caused widespread deaths to birds in the SF Bay. IBRRC was one of the lead oiled bird responders on the spill that stretched from Marin County beaches to Alameda County and Contra Costa County shorelines. More bird treatment info

Read more: San Francisco Chronicle story