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Cosco Busan pilot says he 'misunderstood the chart'

Published: Thursday, April 10, 2008 at 3:00 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, April 9, 2008 at 3:46 p.m.

Petaluma bar pilot John Cota, who was guiding the cargo ship Cosco Busan when it struck a tower of the Bay Bridge last November, expressed regret about settling sail in foggy conditions and said he misunderstood a navigational chart, according to transcripts of the incident released at hearings this week.

The National Transportation Safety Board is looking into the Nov. 7 collision, in which 53,000 gallons of oil spilled into the bay, killing at least 2,000 birds.

Cota has been charged with breaking environmental laws because of the bird deaths and did not testify at the NTSB hearing in Washington, D.C. because of the pending charges.

But a transcript of communications aboard the ship revealed confusion between Cota and the Chinese captain of the freighter over symbols on the navigational chart.

“So sorry, captain,” Cota is heard saying. “I misunderstood the chart.”

He also told a fellow pilot who came aboard to relieve him, “It’s foggy. I shouldn’t have gone” and “I don’t think I’m going to beat this one.”

According to transcripts of a previous NTSB hearing revealed this week, Cota told investigators he wasn’t admitting guilt by apologizing to the captain: “The guy’s ship had a big hole in it. I, you know, I kind of felt it was the decent thing to do.”

The NTSB hearings continue this week.

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