Apr 052008

Cosco Busan pilot John Cota has invoked his right under the 5th Amendment of the US Constitution, which protects accused persons from self-incrimination, not to appear at the US National Transportation Safety Board hearings which start on 8th April. Through lawyers, he claims that VTS personnel were betting on whether the 65,131 tonnes container ship would hit the San Francisco -Oakland Bay Bridge on November 7, 2007.

Sideswiping the bridge’s fenders, a gash was opened in the ship’s side that resulted in a 55,000 gallon spill of fuel oil.

The two-day public NTSB hearings will follow a 7th April conference to fix the final agenda. NTSB Chairman Mark V. Rosenker, who will chair the hearing says, “This accident presents the Board with many questions, such as: Was the Cosco Busan’s bridge navigation equipment working properly? Was there adequate oversight of the San Francisco bar pilot? Did the Coast Guard’s Vessel Traffic Service exert the appropriate level of control over the Cosco Busan?”

A further issue may be the possible effect of medication being taken by Cota for sleep apnea.

Cota’s lawyers claim that the Coast Guard VTS service could have avoided the accident but did not clearly communicate their concern to Cota and that VTS personnel discussed and took bets on whether the Cosco Busan would hit the bridge, based on “waterfront rumours”. The letter also says that the Coast Guard did not warn mariners about the fog and that Cota “… prevented a worse catastrophe by his clear and cool thinking.”

Cota faces prosecution for two misdemeanors under the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. If found guilty, Cota could face a one year prison sentence or fines totalling $115,000.  Some six members of the Cosco Busan crew, who have not been charged are in detention as ‘material witnesses’ pending Cota’s trial.

The Board of Pilot Commissioners for the Bays of San Francisco, San Pablo and Suisun has charged Cota with misconduct and the US Coast Guard has demanded his Merchant Marine Officer’s license because it “believes he is not physically competent to maintain the license.”

Regardless of the results of Cota’s trial or the NTSB hearing, the incident will throw the spotlight on the relationship between Pilot and Master, recently the subject of a Maritime Executive editorial, As pointed out in the responses to that item, the pilkot, at least under US law, is more than merely an adviser, a master is required to obey the pilot, and the bridge crew are required to obey the pilot as if he was the master, unless there is clear indication of the pilot’s incapacity or incompetence.

By which it’s usually too late.

 Posted by at 08:43  Tagged with: , ,

Article of note: Joe O'Keefe – Criminalizing the Cosco Busan Incident

 pilotage  Comments Off on Article of note: Joe O'Keefe – Criminalizing the Cosco Busan Incident
Mar 292008

Joe O’Keefe of Maritime Executive magazine reviews the impact of criminal charges recently laid against the pilot of the Cosco Busan.  It could be the end of an era that has long passed it’s use by date.

Says Joe:

“I don’t know who made the decision to move the Cosco Busan (or why) on that fateful day. Perhaps we’ll never know. What I do know is that last week’s announcement by the Department of Justice changes the rules of the game forever. And, the Coast Guard is very soon going to have to change the answer to a certain multiple choice question on the Rules of the Road Exam, which asks, “What is the role of the pilot on the bridge of a large cargo vessel?” Hint: the answer is no longer “c.”  ”

Read it here. 

 Posted by at 12:08  Tagged with:
Mar 192008

Shortly after Cosco Busan pilot John Cota was charged by the US Department Of Justice for matters related to the Cosco Busan oil spill after its allision with the San Francisco Oakland Bridge, US newspaper National Examiner journalist John Upton revealed that six members of the Cosco Busan crew, including the captain and chief engineer, are being detained in an unknown location without charge.

The US DOJ has, it is claimed, refused to give information on the whereabouts of the men.

Last month the International Transport Workers Federation, ITF, the International Chamber of Shipping and the International Shipping Federation launched a campaign for the fair treatment of seafarers following a maritime accident. A poster has been distributed which may be downloaded from the ISF/ICS or from the ITF.

Under International Maritime Organisation and International Labour Organisation guidelines seafarers have a number of rights, including the right not to self-incriminate and the right to legal counsel.

Under the new IMO code for investing maritime casualties, members states would be required to follow a code of practice which protects seafarers rights in a sort of maritime version of the ‘Miranda rights’. The US, however, objects to the human rights provision in the draft code.

 Posted by at 12:47  Tagged with: ,
Mar 182008

Ship Pilot Charged in San Francisco Bay Oil Spill Case

WASHINGTON—John Joseph Cota, the pilot of the Cosco Busan, the 65,131-ton container ship that collided with the San Francisco Bay Bridge resulting in the discharge of approximately 58,000 gallons of oil, was charged today with violations of the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, announced Ronald J. Tenpas, Assistant Attorney General for the Environment and Natural Resources Division and Joseph P. Russoniello, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California.

According to the criminal information filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco, Cota was licensed by the U.S. Coast Guard and the State of California as a Bar Pilot. He was a member of the San Francisco Bar Pilots and had been employed in the San Francisco Bay since 1981. Pilots are licensed professionals who are responsible for navigating ships through challenging waters. In California, large ocean-going vessels are required to be piloted when entering or leaving port.

The criminal information alleges that on Nov. 7, 2007, Cota negligently caused the discharge of approximately 58,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil from the Cosco Busan in violation of the Clean Water Act, as amended by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990. According to the charges, while piloting the ship from port in heavy fog, he failed to pilot a collision free course and failed to adequately review the proposed course with the Captain and crew on official navigational charts. Further, he failed to use the ship’s radar as he approached the Bay Bridge, use positional fixes or verify the ship’s position using official aids of navigation, throughout the voyage. According to the criminal information, these failures led to the Cosco Busan striking the bridge and spilling the oil.

As a result of the discharge of heavy fuel oil from the Cosco Busan, approximately 2,000 birds died, including Brown Pelicans, Marbled Murrelets and Western Grebes. The Brown Pelican is a federally endangered species and the Marbled Murrelet is a federally threatened species and an endangered species under California law.

Cota is charged with one count of violating the CWA and one count of violating the MBTA. The maximum penalty for a misdemeanor violation of the CWA is one year in prison and a $100,000 fine, and the maximum penalty for a misdemeanor violation of the MBTA is 6 months in prison and a $15,000 fine. A criminal information is merely an accusation. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.

The investigation is ongoing and is being conducted by the Coast Guard Investigative Service, the EPA Criminal Investigation Division, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the California Department of Fish and Game, Office of Spill Prevention and Response.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Stacey Geis of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, and David Joyce, Trial Attorney with the Justice Department’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division with the assistance of Ana Guerra.

Pursuant to the Crime Victims’ Rights Act, crime victims are afforded certain statutory rights including the opportunity to attend all public hearings and provide input to the prosecution. Those adversely impacted by the oil spill are encouraged to visit http://www.usdoj.gov/usao/can/community/Notifications/index.html and the Crime Victims’ Rights Act.

 Posted by at 20:56  Tagged with: ,

Maritime Safety News Today – 5th March 2008

 maritime accidents, maritime crime  Comments Off on Maritime Safety News Today – 5th March 2008
Mar 052008

Felixstowe cranes collapse in high winds

Two ship-to-shore gantry cranes at Felixstowe’s Landguard Terminal ended up in a mangled heap on the quayside at the weekend after a ship delivering three new ship-to-shore cranes to the port broke loose from its moorings in high winds and crashed into them.

Bangladesh ferry toll reaches 45, police say
DHAKA (AFP) — Rescuers in Bangladesh found six more bodies Sunday as the death toll from a ferry accident last week near Dhaka reached 45 with several still

Fishing crew airlifted to safety
Newstalk ZB – New Zealand
winds are hampering the efforts of an oil spill response team heading to the site of a grounding of a commercial fishing vessel in the Far North.

Japan warship collides with freighter in Vietnam
Reuters – USA
The reason for the collision in Vietnam, which scratched paint off the Cambodian ship and bent a flag pole on the Japanese vessel, was not yet clear,

Oil spilled by freighter forces closing of Boca Chica beach
Dominican Today – Santo Domingo,Dominican Republic
The Dominican Navy and Environmental Police agents retained the ship after the accident, said Environment minister Omar Ramirez, after meeting with the

Ship insurer pays $2M over San Francisco oil spill
Business Insurance – Chicago,IL,USA
By Judy Greenwald SAN FRANCISCO—The insurer of a ship that spilled fuel oil into San Francisco Bay following a November accident has made an initial payment

Desal workers strike over safety fears
ABC Online – Australia
Maritime Union of Australia secretary Warren Smith says basic safety standards are not being met on the site. “These are basic issues, such as no recovery

Salvage Team Assessing Boat Grounded on Reef
Scoop.co.nzNew Zealand
with the grounding has now improved significantly. An Auckland-based salvage team appointed by the Seawyf’s owner had headed out to the grounded vessel

Workboats Fiji to remove vessel
Fiji Times – Suva,Fiji
Crew discovered that the vessel listed on the starboard side, that the Ground Deck was full of water, the cargo hold half full of sand, there were further

Turkey hints at maritime fraud behind missing Rezzak
Daily News & Analysis – Mumbai,India
Surprisingly, other sophisticated gadgets like the Global Maritime Distress and Safety System and Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon had also

One dead in boat collision off Bamfield
BCLocalNews – Victoria,BC,Canada
A 30-year-old female passenger was thrown from the vessel entering the inlet. She was recovered from the water and both CPR and first aid were administered.

Storm sinks “pirates” ship in Bahamas
Sebastian Sun (subscription) – Sebastian,FL,USA
The 104-foot dive boat SV Juliet, which was departing Turks and Caicos at the time, heard the USCG call and diverted 45 miles to the sinking boat’s location

Companies swap accusations over SKorea’s worst oil spill
They have said it was impossible for the ship to have weighed anchor in time to avoid a collision, which took place nine minutes after the towlines snapped.

Commandant demands USCG treat mariners with “professionalism and
Marine Log – New York,NY,USA
The Coast Guard has been making a major effort to get the maritime safety mission back on track since a House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Navigation

Times Colonist – Victoria,British Columbia,Canada
was a very substantial period of time between the sinking of the vessel and the RCMP to have access to any of the individuals on the ship,” she said.

Singapore – safety of towed ships and other floating objects The Singapore Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) issued a circular reminding owners, operators, and masters to observe relevant portions of the IMO Guidelines on the Safety of Towed Ships and Other Floating Objects.  Shipping Circular No. 7 of 2008 (2/27/08).

TSB to release report on ferry sinking next week in Vancouver
The Canadian Press – VICTORIA
Two people were killed, while 101 others were rescued before the 37-year-old ship sank about an hour after the collision. Three crew members lost their jobs


Maritime Safety News Today – 26 January 2008

 allision, collision, containership, oil spill, Pollution, ship accidents, Sinking  Comments Off on Maritime Safety News Today – 26 January 2008
Jan 272008

Titas pipeline on blaze after hit by trawler
The Daily Star – Dhaka,Bangladesh
“Soon after the propeller of the vessel hit the pipeline with a bang, a huge swirl was created in the river and we thought our boat was sinking,” said 

Crippled ship is rescued
Melbourne Herald Sun – Australia
“She was en-route from New Zealand to India to be scrapped when she broke down and Maritime Safety Authorities asked us to take her in tow,” Capt .

OJ Freighter Hits Ship in NJ
The Associated Press –
The vessel was later stabilized and in no danger of sinking, though the extent of the damage was not immediately clear. The Orange Sun was on its way to a

Coast Guard assists sinking tugboat’s crew
Peninsula Daily – Port Angeles,WA,USA
The crew put on survival suits and got into the water as the vessel was sinking. A fishing vessel, the Kilchis, picked up the crew, and took them to a 

3 men rescued from sinking fishing boat
KING5.com – Seattle,WA,USA
AP SEATTLE – The Coast Guard says it has rescued three men from a fishing vessel that was taking on water after hitting a jetty at the exit to Grays Harbor

Dragger sinks near Trenton
Ellsworth American – Ellsworth,ME,USA
The Department of Marine Resources Marine Patrol and the United States Coast Guard (USCG) responded to the sinking. The vessel reportedly was attached to .

Trial opens over SKorea’s worst oil spill
The accident happened after a line connecting one of two tugboats to the barge snapped, leaving the barge drifting uncontrollably towards the Hebei Spirit .

Hong Kong Tanker Owners Protest South Korean Indictment of Crew in
Voice of America – USA
Last December, the Hebei Spirit, a Hong Kong-registered tanker, was at anchor off the west coast of South Korea. A drifting South Korean crane barge, 

Niu FM – Auckland,New Zealand
Auckland 8am: A maritime recruitment agancy says very little is known about a Kiribati seafarer being detained in China for drug smuggling – so the

Lawyers Plan to Meet Today Over Cosco Busan Oil Spill
Friday, lawyers are supposed to discuss whether the process is on course for an April 28 hearing into the Cosco Busan’s collision with the Bay Bridge, 

Unions discuss FOC shipping with Irish ministers
Shipping Times – UK
They explained how crucial this was in light of the number of seafarers who disappear without a trace – some 1500 annually. Requests for assistance were 

53 ships docked without safety norms, SC told
Times of India – India
Since the September order, the nodal Gujarat Maritime Board has not given permission for ship-breaking because no shipbreaker has provided the requisite

Jan 192008

Total Responds to Erika Verdict

Total Responds to Erika Verdict

The French oil giant is “disappointed” that the Paris Criminal Court imposed a fine for the maritime pollution that occurred as result of the 1999 sinking of the tanker Erika.

UK – update re sinking of ICE PRINCE The UK Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) issued a press notice stating that the estimated clearance over the wreck of the ICE PRINCE is 46.8 meters, but that an Irish Lights vessel will examine and confirm the clearance.  In the meantime, a temporary exclusion zone of 1000 meters is in effect.  Bundles of the floating timber are breaking up, but may still present a hazard, particularly for smaller vessels.  An incident report provides further details. (1/17/08).

Bourbon Dolphin findings delayed
BBC News – UK
The publication of an official report into the sinking of the Bourbon Dolphin off Shetland has been delayed. The vessel capsized during an anchor handling

Man attempts suicide in protest at SKorea oil spill payout
A barge drifting in stormy weather smashed into the 147000-ton Hong Kong-registered tanker Hebei Spirit on December 7, causing the tanker to spill some

Harbor pilot pulled from chilly gulf
The News Herald – Panama City,FL,USA
Knowles guided a 300-foot cargo ship bound for Mexico through the St. Andrew Pass and out to sea Wednesday afternoon. The captain used a ladder to climb out

Ship Hits Bay Area Bridge…Again
(KCBS) — For the third time in three months a ship has collided with a Bay Area bridge. The US Coast Guard says that around 2:30 Wednesday morning,

Grounded Fishing Vessel’s Damage Assessed Transit Plan Developed
SitNews – Ketchikan,AK,USA
boom continued to surround the vessel as a precaution and there have been no reports of petroleum leakage after the vessel’s initial grounding.

FG explains oil vessel explosion in PH
The Tide – Port Harcourt,Niger Delta,Nigeria
Harcourt on Friday was caused by an accident. Our correspondent reports that a ship carrying 5000 tonnes of petrol exploded at the Port Harcourt Wharf.

Posted 01/18/08 at 10:26 AM
Commodore Goodwill sustained damage to its hull during high winds on December 10 and it is not known when it will be back in service. The ship usually delivers some food and goods to Guernsey. Condor Ferries has chartered the Triumph. The replacement ship will begin daily sailings to Guernsey from 1 February. Source: BBC

San Francisco Bay – initial report on Cosco Busan incident prepared

The US Coast Guard issued a press release stating that the initial report on the COSCO BUSAN incident has been prepared and forwarded to Headquarters for review.  The report, prepared by the Incident Specific Preparedness Review (ISPR) team, focuses on the first two weeks of the response to the November 7, 2007 allision of the freighter with a pier of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge and the ensuing oil spill.  Public release of the report is expected in approximately two weeks. (1/16/08).

Savannah River – grounded vessel refloated

The US Coast Guard issued a press release stating that the container ship that grounded in the Savannah River has been refloated with the assistance of two towing vessels.  The ship has been moved to an anchorage area until the problem causing the grounding has been identified and repaired.  The incident is under investigation. (1/16/08).

Duluth – salvage plan approved for partially sunken laker

The US Coast Guard issued a press release stating that the salvage plan has been approved for the laker that partially sank after striking a submerged object while approaching its pier in Duluth.  Deballasting is expected to take several days.  Then repairs can be effected. (1/16/08).

Cyprus and Syria Sign Cooperation Agreement on Maritime Pollution

The agreement entails “. . . combating marine pollution, training and rehabilitation, research and the possibility of holding twining among the Syrian and Cypriot ports.”

Dock owner stands firm over pilot’s sacking
Liverpool Echo – UK
The member of trade union Unite was dismissed after an incident involving the grounding of a pilot vessel. No-one was hurt but he lost his job after

Dec 312007

1 dead, 5 missing after boat sinks off SKorea’s east coast
International Herald Tribune – France
Meanwhile, rescuers were searching off the nation’s southern coast for 14 sailors feared dead in a separate accident involving their ship that was carrying

Norwegian cruise ship hits iceberg in Antarctic; no injuries reported
International Herald Tribune – France
“It bent the railing and a lifeboat was completely crushed,” he told The Associated Press by telephone. Norum said the engine started up again and the liner .

Cargo Vessel Sinks After Collision In Siak River
Bernama – Kuala Lumpur,Malaysia
Eka Jaya loaded to capacity with building materials and staple food sailing to Bengkalis from Pekanbaru, sank in Siak river following a collision with MV.

Salvage operations continue
gibfocus.gi – Gibraltar
The operations were relaunched prior to Christmas after severe weather conditions led to the stern side of the vessel sinking, and the ship breaking up in .

News Minute: Here is the latest Virginia news from The Associated
WAVY-TV – Portsmouth,VA,USA
(AP) – The Coast Guard is searching off Virginia for a missing crewman from a merchant vessel. A Coast Guard C-130 crew from Elizabeth City, NC,

Contaminated fuel disables containership
Marine Log – New York,NY,USA
“Because the Agaman is presently in no danger of sinking, the Amver vessels‘ assistance allows us to keep our cutters focused on protecting the homeland,

Shipyard explosion blamed on gas buildup
San Diego Union Tribune – United States
BAE and an adjacent shipyard, General Dynamics NASSCO, share a maintenance contract for the ship. The accident occurred after highly flammable oxygen built

Oil spill’s effects now ‘mostly out of sight’
San Jose Mercury News – CA, USA
State authorities suspended the license of the pilot of the vessel, Capt. John Cota of Petaluma, who may have it revoked completely

Chaebol Blamed for Silence in Oil Spill
Korea Times – South Korea
people when the engineers and sailors of the Samsung’s ship reportedly doctored the logbook to cover their mistakes that lead to the accident.

Oil spills highlight need for Alaska shipping safety
Tundra Drums – Anchorage,AK,USA
of another cargo ship, the Salica Frigo, in Dutch Harbor in March of this year. Although this accident in Norway occurred many miles from Alaska,

Long-range identification and tracking of ships – SOLAS amendment enters into force on 1 January 2008 Long-range identification and tracking of ships - SOLAS amendment enters into force on 1 January 2008

International Maritime Organization (IMO) press briefing.

IMO – study completed re air emissions from ships The IMO issued a news release stating that the scientific study on air emissions from ships has been completed. The study reviews the impacts of applying any of the fuel options proposed to reduce SOx and particulate matter generated by shipping, as well as the consequential impact such fuel options could have on other emissions, including CO2 emissions from ships and refineries. The study will be presented to the upcoming sessions of the Sub-Committee on Bulk liquids and Gases (BLG) and the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) for their use in developing amendments to MARPOL Annex VI. (12/21/07).

Seaway Regulations and Rules: Periodic Update, Various Categories
Trading Markets (press release) – Los Angeles,CA,USA
In [Section] 401.34, “Vessels in tow,” the SLSDC is proposing to add a provision that would require every vessel in tow be inspected prior to every transit.

How slight shift in the wind can turn a wave into deadly leviathan
Times Online – UK
Mr Solli added: “For centuries, seafarers have told tales of giant waves that can appear without warning on the high seas. These mountainous waves were said

SAFETY ALERT HMRMS 04-07 — Navigation in Restricted Visibility

A USCG Safety Alert and Report developed by the Investigations Office, United States Coast Guard Sector Hampton Roads.

Boxer Bangs The Bridge

 allision, oil spill, pilotage, Pollution  Comments Off on Boxer Bangs The Bridge
Dec 212007

After US Senator Barbara Boxer introduced legislation that would pass authority from the ship’s master to VTS operators in US waters, MAC left a message at her website asking whether the legislation provided a waiver against responsibility for any damages that might result should following VTS orders result in a pollution incident.

The following is her reply, and my response:

senator@boxer.senate.gov wrote:

Dear Mr. Couttie:

Thank you for writing to me in support of the State of California ‘s petition for a waiver to regulate global warming pollution from vehicles. I appreciate hearing from you, and I share your dismay that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has denied California ‘s petition.

As you may know, in 2002 California passed landmark legislation to set aggressive greenhouse gas standards for motor vehicles, and in 2005 the State wrote rules to implement that law by setting standards to greenhouse gas emissions by about 30 percent by 2016. As provided for under Clean Air Act section 209(b), California asked EPA for a waiver approving the standards.

EPA has unconscionably denied California ‘s waiver application, despite a clear ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court that greenhouse gases are an air pollutant under the Clean Air Act and that EPA already has all the authority it needs to begin regulating greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles now.

EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson based his denial on the premise that in passing an Energy Bill containing increased fuel economy standards, Congress had somehow preempted any state’s efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions. Hiding behind this legislation as an excuse flies in the face of the Supreme Court’s findings and the Energy Bill itself.

Again, thank you for writing to me – and for supporting California ‘s efforts to lead the way in the fight against global warming. Be assured that I will do anything in my power to overturn this decision and protect our state’s right to control greenhouse gas emissions.

Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Please visit my website at http://boxer.senate.gov

Dear Senator,
My query was regarding the liability of VTS Operators vs ships masters should your bill become law.

I wrote nothing in support, or otherwise of your petition for a waiver regarding vehicular pollution in California.

Thanks you for your response which adequately demonstrates your knowledge of maritime pilotage issues.

Bob Couttie
Maritime Accident Casebook

 Posted by at 08:50  Tagged with: ,